essays/photo freewrites

2021 November-December

November 1, 20201 You do not have to rage, all bright and raving. Go gently if you can. Let go of all that sharp need. Prove that fading is a form of grace. November 2, 2021 Smoke trees having some sweet goodbyes with the sun. November 3, 2021 It’s a tiny tragedy that some days... Continue Reading →

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2021 September-October

September 1, 2021 Too cold to swim and no campfires, we went on a rescue mission pulling green plastic balls from the creek (what are they? fishing lures? But without holes to string them?). Then we had a talent show. Elaine fully remembered a cartwheel and handstand. I half remembered the hand jive from a... Continue Reading →

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2021 May -June

May 24, 2021 I took a few pictures over the month of May. They’re all the words I have to share for now. May 24, 2021 Also, here’s one of the things I’ve been doing this last month. This is George. Also, Gorgeous George, Little Guy, and Professor Louis Leaky (because he drools like a... Continue Reading →

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2021 January-February

SE Belmont. Portland, OR Mt. Tabor Portland, ORRockaway, OR Before the flood warning and the high wind warning and having my hotel room jiggle in the wind all night and waking up to no power and driving home through torrential rain. The sky did a magic trick called sun and cirrocumulus.The crows came out to... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite Week 51/52

12/15/20 The veil may be thin, but it’s still impossible to see through in certain light, from certain angles, with certain eyes. May my eyes grow confused and unsure. 12/16/20 Somehow, on the wrong side of the raindrops. Thirsty. 12/17/20 I look at pictures of last week’s shadows. Last week’s chipped red paint. I stay... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite: Week 49/50

12/1/20 If you walk slowly enough or are willing to stop and double back, then sometimes you’ll see the bottoms of raindrops through the translucent cup of a leaf. 12/2/20 This weak, mid-day dapple wrecks me. Find me burrowed in a bed of damp fir needles. Find me humming melancholy love songs under my breath.... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite: Week 47/48

11/16/20 This tree flaunted their jewel-studded limbs and lured me in for a closer look. We both knew it was sap. We both knew another name for sap is precious gem. 11/17/20 These trees didn’t mean to fall in with the “wrong” crowd. The crowd just showed up and, for a while, it felt good... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite: Week 45/46

11/1/20 Kick through the remaining crack and rattle. In a couple days the rain will come, an invitation to the season of softness. 11/2/20 On this corner, under this tree, for this day, the light is rosy. Such things are still possible. 11/3/20 The morning rose surprisingly gentle. Nothing more to do. Or rather, calm... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite: Week 43/44

10/16/20 This is a whale’s backbone and this is a whale’s cervical spine. And we were there together. And we are here together. The whale marks the trail off the beach and into the dunes and toward the bay and around the cape and in the direction of home. My dream wrist wears one of... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite: Week 41/42

10/1/20 Of course the trees don’t really talk to me. Not in English. Not in cedar, maple or magnolia either. It’s just a way to fill up the awkward silence that first arises at a reunion of forgotten kin. 10/2/20 Ferns, waving me closer against all precautions. 10/3/20 I went to take a picture of... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite: Week 39/40

9/16/20 The punk rock kids across the street still sit on their front steps and smoke. The builders rebuilding the burnt down house across the street still nail and paint. But clients call and cancel, unable to step outside to get the mail. And I only duck out for thirty seconds at a time to... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite: Week 37/38

9/2/20 Mushrooms are an excuse. Going in, I didn’t care if I found any. Going out, my empty hands were free for moss and bark. 9/3/20 In the midst of all this dry and pale, red demands its due. 9/4/20 This is so much better than the picture I thought I was taking. A dahlia... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite: Week 35/36

8/21/20 With so much on fire, it’s nice to see something soft and green take over. 8/22/20 There’s a jewel in the center. But it’s not the prize. Let’s maze our way there slowly and make plenty of mistakes. 8/23/20 I picked these flowers from my yard. All the others I’ve picked have faded in... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite: Week 32-34

8/6/20 In the middle of the afternoon broil, the shadows revealed themselves as beautiful monsters licking coolness onto my feet. Overnight, they turned themselves into rain clouds. 8/7/20 I just liked the flower and didn’t see the wasp at first. Neither seemed to care For my visit. 8/8/20 The police turned into riot police a... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite- Week 30/31

7/23/20 My friend’s conservative aunt in Austin asked him how he was doing with worry in her voice. She’d seen Portland on tv. He asked her how she was doing in retort, having seen Texas on tv. 7/24/20 This tree came with a name tag it read to me. Incense cedar. And that, apparently, was... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite: Week 28/29

7/9/20 The once-hidden sweet was never shy. She just wasn’t ready. Beauty is the armored body, opening. 7/10/20 The dance goes silvery then delicate then complicated then slippery then gone. 7/11/20 There is deep satisfaction in a miniature, a diorama, a dollhouse. Not so I can be god/giant wielding tiny things with my meaty fingers,... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite: Week 26/27

6/25/20 This tree told me they had young dreams of being a cloud but it took many many years to become one. 6/26/20 Stayed up too late nursing a hunch about out a slightly different future. Followed by two heart-racing phone calls, some strange number wanting 4am FaceTime. Who is this? I texted back but... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite Week 24/25

6/11/20 No words today. Just color and light 6/12/20 I heard two gunshots in the middle of the night, close but not too close. And then I chased the guns through my dreams, one gun for each BANG. In the middle of my third dream, the guns turned into knives and the bangs turned into... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite Week 22/23

5/27/20 Some buildings look more at home in their Covid clothes than others. I can’t call this place old friend since it’s been decades since I walked through the doors. It’s more like a friendly spirit that’s lingered at the edges of my entire adult life, grumbling the same thing all along. I’ve got nothing... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite: Week 20/21

5/13/20 This would have been a block I raced by as a kid. A place where the doors don’t have handles, the stairs are more moss than concrete, and the ground cover is just waiting for its moment to devour. Why make the walls out of holes if you didn’t want everyone passing by to... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 18/19

4/29/20 This was a different neighborhood, but barely. A block I’d driven by a thousand times but never passed through on foot. And there they were, filling the front yard of an unassuming house. I nearly fell to my knees, but caught myself and simply bowed my head instead. Forgive me, I said. My worship... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 16/17

4/15/20 If you stand in just the right place, relax your eyes in their sockets, tilt back your head, unstick your tongue, remember your right twelfth rib, make friends with your knees and sink into the wide universe one inch under the cracked sidewalk, then a light appears behind a skull-sized ball of blooms and... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 15

4/9/20 I remind myself: Long conversations without the word virus or shelter will return. My friends hips, legs and feet will return. Days not slashed through with the same universal grim will return. Diane will return, washing my hair and rubbing deep into my scalp before she cuts off all the ratty ends. Noisy bars... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 14

4/1/20 This perfect friend. Someone who moved right up against me in a flagrant display of connection but didn’t need a single word of conversation. Someone made from the sun on my back. 4/2/20 Sometimes it is less unfurl and more unhinge. Less bloom and more burst. Less flower and more fever. 4/3/20 I bend... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 13

3/25/20 You think a color can’t save you. It’s just a shade of bright green that sounds like a bad idea for a baby name. Chartreuse. Maybe Chartreuse was the little sister of Chivas, that guy you went to school with. Was it Shakespeare or that ridiculous class where you were the only one who... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 12

3/18/20 Inside, our people or person or own chatter brain fill more space than they ever have. We grow to the size of each room we enter. Outside, the sidewalks are busy, the green spaces are full of people trying to deflate down to normal height and width. I look up and, for a moment,... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 11

3/11/20 The calls have come. Soon I’ll be officially non-essential. My hand on their sharp shoulder blades, their paper-thin arms and aching fingers now has a different kind of potential. I become threat instead of tenderness, harm instead of relief. I’ll sit at home like their sons and daughters and watch the world try to... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 10

3/4/20 I drive through the farmland around Forest Grove every week and every week I search for a safe spot to pull over and take a photo of the beauty there: The unpredictable sky, the geometry of fields, the satisfying disruption caused by small hills and solitary oaks. The shoulders of the roads are mostly... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 9

2/26/20 Yesterday a caregiver taught me that cats have 13 muscles in each ear. A nursing home resident taught me that a busy elephant is called a multitusker. And a palm tree taught me that it grows beautiful purple berries. Feel it - the slip of space between rib and lung. 2/27/20 Waterfalls of tea... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 8

2/19/20 Here, in my home, I am tucked in on all sides. Houses and shadows and fences and punk rock bands and impatient traffic and yard debris and that thing, once useful, slowly making its way either toward the garbage bin or into the ground. These lives hold me. But with that vast valley still... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 7

2/12/20 The snow diamonds were laid out in wide swaths, a valley of shine. But the windows of the van refused even a moment of clarity so the diamonds came streaked in sand and frost. The driver bit his nails for four hours straight, one hand and then the other, pausing only to pass the... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 6

2/5/20 One moment you’re a star. One moment you’re a puddle. It’s the same moment. 2/6/20 I don’t know. I keep writing and erasing. Erasing isn’t really part of freewriting rules. But who’s in charge here? Who decided, that instead of straight metal bars, to go with the a more elaborately patterned panel? As far... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 5

1/29/20 After driving all day, I drive some more through the perpetual winter rain and cross the blue-lit bridge over the swampy water to crowd myself into a lecture hall. Ijeoma Oluo speaks about having hard conversations and how we hurt people of color with our blind acceptance of this system. She shares ways to... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 4

1/22/20 At 5:43pm I can still make out the mess of wires running between houses and utility poles. The clouds have sunset-tinted bellies. The neighbors’ upstairs light is on but I can hear their band starting up in the basement for a second practice this week. No sweet rhythms. Everything is fast and loud and... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 3

1/15/20 New structures make new shadows and new reflections. New hours make new weather. The building that took too many years to finish sits empty. The snow predicted all week for the valley floor stayed in the mountains. Still, my block and the sky around it shook a bit of glow and sparkle, in thanks... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 2

1/8/20 We all have crazy ideas now and then, but not too many of us get far in the execution of them. Something interrupts, quashes or dies before we get to the turret-building stage. Not this guy. He didn’t care that he had no plans or permits, no idea really, other than that original crazy... Continue Reading →

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Photo Freewrite – Week 1

I'm easing back into an active writing practice by committing to freewrites prompted by my daily photo posts on Instagram. Nothing polished and precious here, just a handful of sentences bubbling up and out each out day. I'll be posting them collectively here once a week. Maybe you'll be inspired to join me with your... Continue Reading →

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In Memoriam

"Well, imagine how it all could be among us if we began to understand all the talk about dying and the news about dying and the visits to the hospital and the deathbed and the grave side and the memorial service, and all the sorrows and grief of life, as our initiation into personhood." - Stephen... Continue Reading →

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This essay originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review vol. 9.1 in the summer of 2012. It was selected as a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2013.   Proof   “Touch is food. Vital food.” – Deane Juhan, Job’s Body   Ginger-scented oil slicks my fingers. A new massage client lies beneath them, his... Continue Reading →

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Italian adventure

We were supposed to go in 2020, didn't even consider it in 2021, and finally just made it happen in 2022. Rome, Florence and Tellaro, Italy for two weeks in the high summer heat and high tourist season. Such is the way when your partner is on a school teacher schedule. A small price to... Continue Reading →

The Mishap Lineage

I wanted to come back from my meditation retreat and just write about what a meditation retreat is. "What's there to learn?" my father asked when I told him our practice sessions were interspersed with instruction and talks. "Aren't you just sitting there?" I wanted to describe just sitting there. Sitting and crying. Sitting and... Continue Reading →

Cult-land, here I come

Earlier this summer I told my husband that I'd registered for a five-month somatic meditation program. "It's mostly online, but it starts and ends with week-long retreats at their center in Colorado." "So you're joining a cult?" he said. "It's not a cult," I said. "It's a meditation retreat." "Yeah, that's what they call them."... Continue Reading →

The occasional and quiet

The story these days is that writers have to be marketers if they want to sell books. As far as I can tell, this is true. It also seems true that you can market your soul away and still not sell much. I just finished reading this very sobering article in Longreads, about a variety... Continue Reading →


This is happening. So so so so slowly, but definitely, positively surely. My hybrid book of memoir, poetry and image will be released in June! It's called I Want More. The exact date is not set, because nothing about this book has been exact and nothing about this book has been speedy. Just like me.... Continue Reading →

Writing Conference Confessions

Confession: I had no interest in AWP, the country's biggest annual writing conference that happened to be in my city this year. I went to only one amazing off-site reading, nearly fainting from the crowd. I chatted with a few nice strangers there that I was literally rubbing elbows with. I’m sure there are lots... Continue Reading →

Snow feathers

On the evening news, everyone was giddy with snow panic. It would have been the same hyperbole if it had happened in December or January, but there was an added layer of surprise, offense and/or betrayal in the fact that the snow, when and if it arrived, would be falling on daphne and daffodils and... Continue Reading →


 See the line as it is and draw it as a shape. Do not draw a chair, a suit, a hand. When I draw the shape and not the thing as a whole, everything but the shape disappears. The narrow PCC classroom disappears along with the gabby, white-haired retirees and the mumbly men. I don't... Continue Reading →

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