“Why do you think about death so much?” she said as we sat side by side on the bluff. I stared out at the ocean. She was right. All of my journals confirmed it, and when I was a tween, I played melancholy piano records while imagining myself saying long, drawn-out goodbyes to family members in coffins.

The tears I cried then came from a deep place—somewhere in me that knew the sorrow of parting with someone who had sewn their own patch onto my quilted heart. The faux funerals one day morphed into cryptic poetry, then songs that like a thumbtack pricked my uncle to his feet to ask me why everything I wrote was “so sad.”

For some reason, I felt the sad more than any other emotion. When I looked out at the horizon, that something we can’t see with our eyes that calls from a place we can’t yet go—a place not unfamiliar but still far from what we know—would remind me that everything was temporary.

I grew up knowing that loss digs trenches through hearts, that tears are the only logical response to that kind of pain, and that we feel helpless in the face of it, because we are.


I can see mountains from my window. They’re like a painting dusted with peaches and purples. It’s late in the day, and I can hear the wind whooshing as the clouds move swiftly by. As the sun descends, the mountain peaks hold onto the last bit of glow that it offers. I know that from here, those mountains appear to be only dust, rock, and trees, but there is a bounty of life there. From here, I can’t see the life beaming, but I know that it’s there. There are rabbits, deer, lizards, snakes, mountain lions, coyotes, bees, ants, beetles, scorpions. I know this because I live on a mountain. As the sun continues its race, the mountains have grown darker, and all I can see is the outline of its peaks and boulders against the dimming sky. The painting has become one lump of deep blue. But again, I know that there are an abundance of colors dancing there: greens, golds, silvers, browns. The sun has spotted the clouds with red-orange, and the wind continues its song — the one that sometimes wakes me up at night. That can happen when you live on a mountain. It’s always new — this painted sky, these sounding winds, the beauty of the fading sun. I’ve lived on this mountain for over a year, but it always feels new.


I love what You’ve made
Every creature I see
The tan, furry face
The content, buzzing bee
The flowers that open
On the branch of a tree
And the doves that dive low
Overhead, over me

I love that the sky
Opens up in a spot
And the sun, it shoots through
The thick fog that it fought
Where the blue is so welcome
And the light that it brought
Reminds me that joy
It’s still there, like I thought

Father, help me to see
That today, it is new
That You made the flower
And You made the blue
That nothing could buzz
Or dive without You
That nothing can open
Unless you tell it to

Sometimes I forget
That the small things are big
That the dark becomes light
That the day grows the fig
That at rest I can see
Where for treasure, to dig
That the tree sings Your song
Every branch, every twig


I am only a branch
I am moved by the wind
When a bird finds my perch
I am likely to bend

But I curve and I stretch
And I know, from the root
That I have what I need
To sprout leaves and bear fruit


It is icy up here
And the night has been long
I haven’t heard cheer
Or the little bird’s song
The dark makes it colder
Oh, the shadows of night
I’m not seeing gladness
Or the little bird’s flight

How do I wish morning
Would make itself known
When eyes would peer out
From the tucked-in, hushed home
They’d see me, and smile
Oh, how bright it becomes
When the little bird sings
At the sight of the sun

Then with the warmth
And with the glow
I become water
When once I was snow
I fall from this branch
But all the way down
I’ll see the bird dance
And hear its sweet sound


There is no such thing
As a heroic tale
That ends at the start
Without wind or sail

But one goes on a journey
That’s where draws the heart
And each step that is taken
Is of every whole, part

For there is no beginning
Where rests all the glory
It’s the begin-agains
That tell the great story


There are some things that we have not shared with another
The things that make different, us one from the other
They boiled our blood, they changed us within
So that never would we be back where we had been

There are images we cannot ever unsee
Where not just my pain made the breathing less free
But others broke too, and their grief did strike me
So that nothing the same, no not ever, would be


In stillness, I hear my heart beating
See more clearly the wind through the trees
Watch pine needles fall, mountains stand tall,
And heavy thoughts move in to seize

It’s deliberate, this moving about
This putting things out of my mind
It’s easier that way, a chance to delay
The pain that does echo and find

I wish I could tell it, “Be gone!”
And far away it would go
Like a leaf on the stream
Floats away in sunbeam,
Or like footprints that fade in the snow

Struggles they come, but they’ll go
Once and for all they’ll depart
And I’ll find my strength,
Be renewed with each length
And all with a healing of heart


What is still?
It’s the ceasing of wind
It’s the cat at my feet
It’s a leaf’s gentle bend

It’s the silence at night
It’s a crescent of light
Where the moon sits just right
Above an earth in flight

It’s a small child’s hand
It’s the breaking of man
When he falls to his knees
Because love had a plan

It’s a snail en route
It’s a flower in bloom
It’s the fragile, green shoot
Where the ground has made room

It’s a smile through tears
It’s a hand held through years
It’s a trickling stream
Filling softly, the ears

It’s the skimming of palms
Over glowing wheat fields
It’s the watching of clouds
And the shapes that they yield

What is still?
It’s the sky at twilight . . .
It’s when blue looks its best
When it’s up against night