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IMG_5339About a month ago, I left my journal at a friend’s house, so I had to start a new one.  When I got the old one back, I started writing again where I’d left off.  I noticed a lot had happened in a month’s time.  So I wrote about it.  (Note: Journal technique: time capsule)

IMG_6135May 29, 2016

A lot has happened since I lost my journal.

  • I planned my first street protest.
  • I went to Santa Rosa, Florida, for a reunion with three dear friends, where I photographed purple flowers.
  • Despite our protest, the Zoning Committee of City Council voted to approve the zoning change to my neighborhood
  • I took the Journal to the Self series for the fourth time, this time facilitated by my friend and newly certified JTTS facilitator, Meg Rohal, so we can work together to expand the expressive writing community here in Jacksonville.IMG_5745.jpg
  • City Council also voted to approve the zoning change, with the exception of five key votes.
  • We began filing an appeal.
  • I went to Kanuga, North Carolina, for the 2016 Journal Conference and heard Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet laureate Natasha Trethewey.
  • My kids came home from college for the summer.
  • Camille got a job and is writing an article for Edible Northeast Florida!
  • Matt survived his freshman year at LSU!
  • I joined City Beautiful Jax as a board member.
  • I held a writing circle in the woods for a Write + Hike + Eat at Down to Earth Farm.
  • I wrote a table of contents for my new book idea.
  • I learned three new bird calls:  yellow-throated warbler, Eastern phoebe, song sparrow.
  • IMG_5836The downy woodpeckers in the back yard fledged the nest.
  • I decided I’m ready to finish setting up my bedroom, the last room in the house to get my attention since my move.
  • I’m helping to start a non-profit to help give citizens a stronger voice is our City’s zoning decisions.
  • I got closer on the redesign of my business brands (I’ve got four of them).
  • I planned my trip to Belgium (and Luxembourg, and Ireland, and Paris), for this summer, kicked off by Camille’s study abroad program in Paris.
  • Camille’s passport finally arrived in the mail!
  • I began planning ANOTHER street protest.

Now I’m headed to brunch at Community Loaves with Camille, where we will eat homemade bread and walk in the garden.

Life is good.
In the Riverside Garden.



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Death Comes Quickly

He was a tall man; somewhat morose, it seemed to me. His smile did not break out easily, but when it did, it changed his face from dark to light, like the snow crystals suddenly bathed in morning sunlight on Sheep’s Pasture at the Cataloochie Ranch.

View of the Horse Barn and Sheep's Pasture from the Cataloochie Ranch living room.I remember glancing out the window of the Bluebird one summer and seeing him at the picnic tables with the ranch hands, a sardonic, wide grin on his face, at ease, enjoying himself.  His sunglasses wrapped around his head, and I thought, here is the man that his wife fell in love with, his daughter admires, his Cataloochie co-workers appreciate, for his quiet, unassuming way.

He was the ranch historian, running through the slide show dutifully every Monday night.  Not a showman, but, telling it truthfully, animating now and then over a salacious detail, like the gun just visible in the photo, or the moonshine hidden in the background.

His passion seemed to be the Chestnut orchard. He explained how they had found a mature, disease-free tree on the ranch not long ago, then developed a mini-forest of cross-bred saplings, combining an Asian species with the original tree, an ongoing experiment of regeneration, restoration, and rebirth.

And he was the caller every year at the square dance.  I wish I’d have been there for one of those.

Was he lonely, I wondered? I knew he was recently divorced. One time, the ranch ladies sat him next to me and my friend Melissa, single at the time.  Were they hoping for a match, we wondered?  We giggled a bit about it, later.

But that trip, he gave me a big hug before I left, his arms opened as wide as the fireplace mantle behind him, as broad as his  frame was tall. Still bruised by my own loss, I only watched us from a distance.

“He’s terminally ill,” his mother told me this morning, when I asked where he’d been. “He’s not expected to last ’til Christmas.” Her eyes filled as my face registered the shock, and my eyes filled, also. “That’s where I’m going right now, to see him.  Mary’s been with him all night.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

“You have to deal with what you’re dealt,” she said, matter-of-factly.

Sunset at the Ranch.We both looked away, at the bare Christmas tree, standing in the place where he normally projects his slide show, in the large, comfortable ranch living room, a former barn.

“I wish they hadn’t put the Christmas tree up yet,” she said.  “Let Thanksgiving weekend be Thanksgiving weekend, and then let it be Christmas.”

I saw her driving away later, into the cold morning, and my eyes and heart filled again, for a mother’s love, for a lost son.

In the garden.



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Divine Order

I must admit, growing up in the somewhat chaotic world of the farm, I crave order.  I require it.  It’s definitely necessary for my inner peace.

As Gretchen Rubin quotes in her book, Happier At Home, “outer order creates inner order.” Or, as a friend’s father used to say, “The state of your room is the state of your mind.” Or, as Oprah has pointed out, “The state of your wallet reflects the state of your finances.”

Therefore, it is a real discipline for me to allow my son’s clothes to lie where they are dropped, all over his room, day after day. I cannot let myself IMG_2488pick them up, even if I think that would be “good for him.”

As my brother-in-law once tongue-in-cheek pointed out, after I’d spent a week with my family, “Why should I put the glass away if Jennifer will just come along later and put it away for me?”

Now, like all things, it’s a matter of balance for me.  Can I handle a little disorder and still be OK?

I was annoyed this morning when I realized my son had not taken out the trash cans last night, nor removed the recyclables from the kitchen. Therefore, I’d have to do it myself, in the rain.

Hmmm.  Do you see a pattern here?  (“Why should I take it out if Mom’s going to take it out for me?”)

The truth for me is actually yet another paradox: inner peace creates outer calm.  As I have learned to cultivate inner calm, I’m better able to stay serene in the face of disorder.

But it does feel good to have that “outer clean” boost, as Gretchen points out.  This week, my painter buddy, Anthony, is back in town.  He has patiently and painstakingly painted this house, inside and out, for the past eight years: the garage, my daughter’s room (3 times), furniture, air vents, the laundry room. And the white fence that surrounds my garden.

After he moved away a couple years ago, mildew took over, so this week I asked him to power wash and touch up everything.  Including the place on the pergola where my son scratched his initials (a brief knife-ownership phase).


Ahhh.  Lovely. “Looks just as good as when I first painted it,” Anthony said, grinning and surveying his work.

Yes.  It is good to restore order, to create order, to maintain order — in a garden and in life. Just not to the edge of military precision.  I’ve got to let my son (and daughter, for that matter) grow a little wild — to move outside the edges and then back in.  I’ve got to have  a little tolerance for disorder in his world, so that he can feel, on his own, the difference between the two states, and decide what feels comfortable for HIM.  Not me.

After all, he hung up his towel four days in a row last week! It’s a miracle!

Oh, these wildflowers.  They will grow and bloom, just not in a straight line.  Free. Tumbling. Wild. Finding their own particular and lovely beauty, in the divine order of all things.

In the garden.


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Digging In The Dirt

Just for fun, here’s an interview with me that my colleague and friend, Jean Rowe, wrote for The Center for Journal Therapy last fall.  Some good dirt on me!  (Jean is the Program Manager and Oncology Certified Social Worker at Young Survival Coalition in Atlanta, and leads journaling workshops for young survivors.)

What is your relationship between actual gardening and journaling?

My garden is both a metaphor for my life and a literal experience, where I can connect with myself and the earth. In my journal, I write about both experiences. In the process, I learn a lot, about myself and about the world. Plus, I often write IN the garden. I have a bench in my front yard, tucked under a tree and near my bluebird nest box, and it is a delightful spot to journal in the early morning, among the birds and flowers.

What have your harvested from the garden that is your journal?

Stability. It’s an anchor, a root system, one that keeps me grounded. I write in my journal every morning, without fail, and often throughout the day. It’s how I find out what’s going on with me, how I process the events of my life, and connect with my spiritual self. These are all activities I did not do very well until recently.

Here’s the link for the rest of the article:

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