Monthly Archives: December 2019


The crows warn of the coming storm.  I stand on my porch and listen to their cries.  They soar in pairs, or singly, or all of a sudden in a great rush across the meadow.  Branches bend under their weight.  A smattering of leaves floats around me.  I shiver in the rising wind.

The roar fills the air, whistling and rushing.  I cannot see the river but I know its cast against the shore has deepened.  The masts of the boats in the marina sway.  Hulls bump against the dock.  Again a shudder runs through me.  It could be a train that I hear, sounding forlorn and steady through the afternoon air.  But no trains pass this way.  It is, it can only be, the winter wind.

A little critter scurries across my paving stone walk.  A lizard, perhaps; I’ve heard talk of mice in our fields but I have never seen one this close.  I pull the deck chairs closer to the rail and roll the rug against the base of the porch.  I lean the umbrella against the house. I have no storage for the trappings of summer.  My feeble efforts mean little when the Delta gale blows, but I can do no more.

Clouds gather across the sun.  The wide expanse of blue fades to grey.  I go into the house and think about a cup of tea.   Night draws near.  I gather my sweater around my shoulders and close the door.

It’s the fifth day of the seventy-second month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

There’s a Certain Slant of Light by Emily Dickinson

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –


Friends:  While I certainly intend to continue on my #journeytojoy, and my quest to attain #MyYearWithoutComplaining, this blog nears the end of its sixth year.  I feel that it will soon morph into some new iteration.  Please be patient if the entries become more sporadic, more intense, or — God forbid — more maudlin.  My thanks to each person who reads:  for their loyalty, or, in the least, for their time.   Your comments, your caring, your concern, and your sharing make any effort involved in the creation of this blog completely worthwhile.  Thank you. 

Happy Holidays.  Be well, be joyful, be at peace.

F everyone’s I: The photos in this gallery were shot, as you see them (unretouched, unmanipulated, unedited) with my trusty but quite rudimentary Canon Powershot while standing on the porch of Angel’s Haven at Park Delta Bay, in the California Delta, Isleton, California, on 06 December 2019.

Marking time

The crows have returned.  I heard them first through an open window yesterday morning.  The determined caws sounded across the meadow, call and return.  I paused in my morning ablutions and thought, Two years since I first heard that winter cry.

As I left my house, a clutch of them rose from the roadway, arcing away over the field.  Soon the snow geese will descend into that space which will be flooded for the safe harbor of these perennial visitors.  We slow down  to marvel, raising our lenses for the chance of a perfect shot.  The geese lift as one each morning to roam far in search of food, gracefully returning  in the dying light of the setting sun.

I come and go as they do.  I understand the pattern of country life.  I can most easily drive the levee roads after the sun clears the horizon.  I scurry home before the dimness fades and I can no longer discern the treacherous curves of the river bank.  

In this morning’s gloom, I strain to see the outline of the willow tree behind my house.  Grey forms shift.  Long branches sway beneath the weight of the gathered crows.  The owl who nests in the ancient oak gives one last hoot as she settles.  I stretch stiff muscles and peer at the kettle.  Steam rises.  I pour the water over coffee grounds and stand in the kitchen watching it slowly drip into the carafe.  

Two years this month since I brought myself here, to this isolated and wondrous place.

Coffee in hand, I walk over to the radio, press play, and stand at the window listening to the news of this momentous hour.

It’s the fifth day of the seventy-second month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


‘Tis the season

I  love a good day at the thrift store.  I’ve been engaging in significant self-editing but the stroll through the aisle still affords the twin thrills of hunt and discovery.  Yesterday, a specific purpose drew me to Goodwill.  I needed frames for two pieces of art that I purchased from Delta artists Char Hall and Isabel Dresler. I felt a little shabby buying second-hand frames, since they own a frame shop in Walnut Grove but there you go.  I told them in advance what I intended to do, and they sold me the pieces anyway so I guess I got their permission, however grudgingly offered it secretly might have been.

I fought with the door coming into the store.  Such small efforts often confound me.  Those doors weigh more than I do sometimes.  A departing customer jumped forward to help, then grinned as I thanked him more profusely than perhaps he thought warranted.  But we do so little for each other in the world; I tend to over-compensate to encourage the trend.

I found suitable frames for three dollars each at two different spots in the sizable Art, Frame, and Mirror section.  I moved through Clothing, of which I need none.  I happened upon a respectable pair of slacks for three dollars on the color-of-the-day fifty-percent off sale.  An orange silk dress tempted me for two or three minutes.  It stayed in my cart until I saw a bag that I couldn’t resist.  I know, I know; I have a bag problem.  But this one seemed special and for $5.99, certainly made the cut.  (I found out later how special it was:  Original retail price, $398.00 at 

At the counter, the lady asked if I wanted to round up the 23 cents to the nearest dollar.  I told  her, round to the next ten, and she said, but that would be a dollar twenty-three donation.  I nodded.  The gratitude which she expressed rivaled what I had given the guy at the door.  Just desserts in reverse.  I turned to exit, my purchases nestled in the large, flexible basket that I bought for winter boot storage (five bucks) in the cart which I had permission to take from the store (on condition of return to the sidewalk).

I smiled at the tiny woman with her mound of children’s clothes paying at the register next to me.  We had crossed paths several times, excusing ourselves to pass in the narrow aisles.  She wore a wool sweater similar to one which I had years ago, by the ethereal brand Sleeping on Snow.  I couldn’t get beyond her because another customer straddled the narrow passage with her cart while she whisked through a rack of blouses.  Excuse me, I said, probably too low to be easily heard over the Christian Christmas music playing on its endless loop.

Her rapid progress through the merchandise continued unabated.  I tried a louder tone.  Still no response.  The lady in the Sleeping on Snow sweater leaned forward and tapped the other woman on the arm, garnering a swift and angry reaction.  A conversation ensued in a language which I could not understand.  I got the point though:  Conciliatory on the one side, accusatory on the other.  My savior gestured in my direction but the other lady just continued to blast her for the gentle tap.  I leaned forward and said, again, excuse me, adding, I just need to get out of the store.  She didn’t turn her head.  She just kept yelling at the little lady while the cashiers began to congregate and murmur.

Eventually, my champion gathered allies in whatever language they all spoke.  I started to look for alternate routes.  I began to turn my cart around, but the group cajoled me, No, no, come forward, here, let me help, by which time, it became obvious to the lady whose cart blocked mine what they were trying to do.  She adjusted her own cart minutely, and, eventually, I escaped.  I just kept muttering over and over, thank you, I’m sorry, thank you, so sorry, until I got to my car.

Later, at Sprouts, I put a bag of donated food in my cart.  As I paid, the clerk expressed appreciation for my gift.  She transferred the pre-packaged items into a large bin, and bagged my other purchases.  I stood for a while studying all of the food being donated by Sprouts customers.  A memory surfaced.  My brothers and I came home from school one day to find a box of food on our door step.  We dragged it into the living room and called my mother at work.  When she got home, she took the items out one by one, stacking them on the counter.  She stood, silent, shaking her head.  Then she put the food away and started making dinner, as darkness gathered outside our home, in the cold of a Midwest winter night.

It’s the first day of the seventy-second month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Click HERE for Feeding America to donate or find a food bank near you.  

Happy Holidays.  Be safe. Be warm. Be joyful.