The Writing Life

9/11

Remembering 9/11

We will always remember September 11, 2001, and this hilltop will forever have special meaning for the thousands who made their way to Essex County Eagle Rock Reservation to watch the shocking events unfolding at the World Trade Center. – Essex County Eagle Rock 9/11 Memorial 

9/11/2001

My husband and I lived in New Jersey in 2001 and were vacationing upstate at Lake George NY on 9/11. When we got home we drove over to Eagle Rock Reservation to look at the city. The Reservation had long been known for its panoramic view of the NYC skyline.

On 9/11 it was a magnet for New Jerseyans who watched and waited for family members who never came home, and later to wait for first responders, counselors, therapists to return after shifts of helping in the city. For weeks after 9/11 the skyline was a horrific dramatic reminder of the attack on the World Trade Center. Smoke rose in columns above where the Trade Center had been. The wall along the park view was laden with flags, photos, cards and candles. Day and night people came to witness, holding onto each other, faces wet with tears.

We went there more than once. Like other traumatic events, hours of sleep where night changed to the next day, played tricks on me. I’d wake up a day in late September or October or November and think, “Did it really happen?” Drive over to the park,. “Yes, it happened.” To stand along the stone wall to pray and maybe hug a stranger who was not really a stranger.

9/11/2020

Today the 9/11 Memorial in the Eagle Rock Reservation is a tribute to those who lost their lives in NYC. Each name is engraved along the wall and there is a large open book with the names of those from Essex County NJ.

Each time we go back East to visit family or friends in NJ, we go back to the Memorial to remember.

Essex County Eagle Rock September 11 Memorial 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

Getting to Nothing

Getting to Nothing

Yoga, meditation, and walking a labyrinth have helped me slow down. Taking pictures on travels and at events revealed to me a love of landscapes, water, and serene settings. With the time I save disengaging from over-commitments and retiring my crown as a royal multi-tasker, I find local serene spots, hang out and do nothing.

 

The Art of Doing Nothing

A charming book titled The Art of Doing Nothing by Veronique Vienne captivated me because of its elegant design, brevity, and beautiful sepia photos. And then there was her meandering but clearcut writing. Topics are categorized as Arts: the art of procrastinating, the art of napping, bathing, breathing, yawning. And lounging. That was the one.

Lounging. It evokes chaise lounges- with languorous females supine, wearing nothing but a Mona Lisa smile. Lounging- in the hammock in my beloved Miller Place with the metal hooks that squeaked rhythmically as I got a small sway going and then just rocked. Sigh. Or in the Adirondacks’ hammock hung between two oak trees. Lounging on the grass staring at clouds. Breathe.

Each of my lounge visions includes no words, no thoughts. Just lounging, my muscles slack, my bones almost melting onto the surface that welcomes them.

Rising up from lounging, (because you have to get close the to the surface of the earth or lower than your solar plexus height when you lounge, so says Mme Vienne), and it makes sense, my breathing is slower, calmer; those cricks in my neck and knees are gone.

Fairly soon after lounging, an idea can be crystallized; a troubling situation is not so troubling or even no longer a “situation.” Like the baby doves out back that rested in their nest for two weeks to get their little feathers smoothed out, I’m smoothed out. And it takes a lot less than two weeks.

Favorite Lounge Spots

Where do you lounge?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

Intentions and Showing Up

What’s Your Intention?

My Tuesday writing group uses intentions as a foundation for our writing time. The question for each of us is, “What is your intention today?” Most Tuesdays it’s pretty clear. “I’m drafting/revising/polishing or posting a blog.” “I’m working on a project for my class.” “Writing out birthday cards.” “Working on my newsletter.” The parameters for my Tuesday intentions have been “it has to be something I am writing.”

Getting Ready to Write

Somewhere in my writing life I realized getting ready to write preceded the actual sitting down and putting pen to paper (historical reference #1). In the early days of my writing career, it was claiming a place to write. Over the years it has been the café at Borders (historical reference #2), the library, Starbucks, various coffee shops in New Jersey, New York, and now Arizona. For the past seven years it’s been my office or rotating among the host homes of our Eastside Writing Room writers. Now during the pandemic I write at home- dining room table, at my desk, or on the patio. The place is set.

Getting ready to write sometimes calls for mental ruminating, reading, talking to someone, just sitting. Some wonderful ideas have come to me while cleaning the house, or exercising, or just staring. I trust those non-writing times as part of being a writer.

Want To Just a Little Bit More Than You Don’t Want To

When I do have a written list of say, ten things I want to /can/need to write about, the intention can become unclear, confusing. Which to do? The part of me that forgets I am a good writer, offers an exit door and whispers, “Well, maybe you don’t need to write today.” Time to tip the scale. When I tell myself I want to write even just a little bit more than I don’t want to write, another door opens.

woman sitting next to mural of Sylvia Beach and James JoyceEarly “teachers” like Natalie Goldberg, Stephen King, Sylvia Beach, and Julia Cameron inspired me. It filters down to BIC- butt in chair and write. Write X number of words or X number of pages. Even if the first sentence is “I have nothing to write about.” Something always comes.

Bottom Line… Show Up

Think about it. When, where, or how have you showed up, not at all committed to an idea, place, or person? And something happened. Maybe even something superb. Maybe not right then, but later- that day, the next week, a year later. That showing up was a seed that grew and bore fruit. And if I delve a little deeper, there were “things” that got me ready to show up. What a concept.

My teachers are everywhere. Stop smoking like T. did. Practice yoga like A. does until I can hold that pose. Play at tai chi Like H. Commit to a healthy food plan like M. Dance like L.  Forgive Z. Paint like S. does. Write a book like C did. Take a walk- move a muscle; change a thought.woman standing on rocks arms up victorious

Today I showed up to write. What was the most recent thing you showed up for?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic.

This Doesn’t Belong to Me

Cleaning up after a party:

“Where did this come from?”   Shrug. “Doesn’t belong me.”

Those leftover things that don’t belong to you. Sometimes it’s a sweater. A cake plate. Eyeglasses. Or an umbrella or gloves – if you live in certain regions of the US. It’s probably happened in your house. It’s sure happened at our house.

Since we’ve been sheltering at home and have had zero parties, dinners, or groups, the questions about leftover items have diminished. We’ve donated lots of our clothes, books, kitchen items, etc. that we just don’t use or need.

I’m also finding more and more old ideas, phrases, and outdated thinking that no longer belong to me or that I don’t need. I’ve let go of stuff like “No pain, no gain.” “Work first, then play.” “Worrying proves you care.” “Don’t rock the boat.”

Got rid of ’em. Out. 86’d.

Cleaning Out the Closet of Old Ideas:

Periodically I still “clean out the closet” of old ideas/descriptions that don’t fit. Can you think of a shirt or top or dress that just would never fit you again but you just couldn’t get rid of it? It took up space in the closet, got dusty, it was in the way getting to what you really wanted. But it had cost so much, or it reminded you of….  Then one day either the hanger broke or the dress ripped, or you actually took it off the rack and tossed it. Finally – you got rid of it. You could see clearly what you did have. And created space for better stuff.

Same thing with ideas.

  • Get rid of “poverty thinking,” (I’ll never get out of debt; I won’t get hired for that event; I can’t afford that car).
  • Draft a new emotional budget- add more line items to the Mad, Sad, Bad, Scared list. Like: Delighted, Happy, Proud, Enthused, Excited, Courageous, Giddy, Angry, Patient, Loving, Friendly.
  • Stop trying to make everyone in your life happy. (Crazy, huh? Also impossible.)
  • Cease saying yes when your heart says no.

 Using Different Behaviors So It Works

  • Count to 10
  • Refrain from speaking until I count to 10 or take a time-out.
  • Agree to disagree.
  • Go to bed when I’m tired.
  • Eat three healthy meals a day- sitting at a table, not standing in front of the open refrigerator.
  • Take a nap.
  • Declare a moratorium on news, negative conversations.
  • Do something playful every day.
  • Ban multi-tasking.
  • Do nothing. What? Do nothing. That was the hardest. I had been personally, professionally, and culturally complimented on being a multi-tasker. If the attribute came with headaches, stomachaches, and a certain irritability, so be it. I was a grandmaster multi-tasker. When it hurt too much I began to change with baby step actions.

Start Cutbacks

I slowly reduced watching TV and checking emails, while doing my nails to just watching TV. Not quite doing nothing, but getting there.

  • Learning to say no. Repeating saying no.
  • Being willing to “Talk low, walk slow, and don’t say too much.” ~ John Wayne
  • Not responding to any devices for a set amount of time.
  • Breathing a lot easier. Finding it easier to laugh. And lots more.

What helps you toss those “things” that don’t belong?

Coming Soon blog. Lounging, the Easier Way to Do Nothing

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

All You Need is Love

I’m starting my day with thoughts like this:

Ya gotta learn to laugh. It’s the way to true love. ~ John Travolta- in the film Michael

Love is an excess of friendship. ~ Aristotle

If lots more of us loved each other, we’d solve lots more problems. And then the world would be a gasser.  ~ Louis Armstrong

Too much of a good thing is wonderful.  ~ Mae West

There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved. It is God’s finger on man’s shoulder.     ~ C. Morgan

 

 

 

If we make our goal to live a life of compassion and unconditional love, then the world will indeed become a garden where all kinds of flowers can bloom and grow. ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

 

 

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

Speaking of Connections

Beginnings 1969

On a rainy September morning in 1969 I was late for my first day of teaching. I was the new kindergarten teacher commuting from NYC to a suburban town in New Jersey. Saved by a very cheerful and generous welcome from my teaching partner, it was the beginning of an inspiring 28-year career in educating young children and becoming a part of the teacher association and community of West Caldwell, NJ.

I found a “home” in West Caldwell and even today have a continued relationship with many of my teaching colleagues, (now retired), and parents of kids, and the now adult students who have their own kids.

Another 1969 event was the first Brady Bunch TV show, also in September. If you are of a certain age you know the Brady Bunch, a blended family. He, a widower with three children, and she, mother of three. What got the attention of the TV world was the very beginning of each show.

Video headshots were arranged in a three-by-three grid, with each cast member appearing to look at the other family members. Pre-internet, this was a then new “multi-dynamic image technique” created by Canadian filmmaker Christopher Chapman. Hello to the future Zoom.

New Beginnings 2020

Who knew that about half a century later many of us would be digitally connected like the Brady Bunch?

Still sheltering at home (August 12, 2020), I am going out for essentials in my Bermuda Triangle of ACE, CVS, and Safeway. I have social distance breakfasts with friends, and bike and walk in our surrounding neighborhoods.

And Then There’s Digital Connections

My email from Daily Good recently had “Tips to Connect.” I was intrigued and inspired by the list of ideas. Check it out http://www.dailygood.org/more.php?n=8555

Connections

Write: Blog; Send emails.

Zoom: with family, friends, professional colleagues, storytelling groups, Tucson Tellers of Tales, Eastside Writing Room, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, any number of invites to meditate, grow spiritually, be mindful, dance with Jiggy, sing with Connie Brannock.

You Tube: Dr. Richard Miller’s iRest Yoga Nigra, Amy Weintraub yoga, the Write Group of Montclair, Odyssey Storytelling, FST, Sandy and Doug McMasters Ohana Slack Key concerts on Kauai.

Facebook: Friends, writing groups, alumni groups (Wagner College ’69), If you grew up in… (Find your hometown page or high school. (Mine is from Merrick, LI, NY; Calhoun High School). I’ve connected with my childhood church (Community Presbyterian Church of Merrick)

Or like millions of folks, go through the multitude of photos you have and know with the sureness of your inner artist that yours are worth sharing. (They are.)

Facetime, Instagram, Twitter, Google Classroom, Google Photo Albums.

And The Real Stuff

Phone someone, write a letter, send a card, or photos. Say hello to anyone and everyone you see on your walk, at the store. Spread the friendly feelings around.

Connecting With Yourself

Daily yoga, (stepping on my mat each morning connects me to me). Meditation and spiritual readings. Journal. My sweetheart and I read together; my friend reads with her friend on Facetime.

Lounging: my new hobby. I’ve found comfortable and quiet areas at home and nearby where I can just be. Not easy for me but gradually the fast-moving images and thoughts racing across my mental radar screen slow down, then get very intermittent, and I just drift. I’ve gotten some of my nicest surprise ideas just lounging around.

That’s just a few. Feel free to share your ways of connecting. Click here to contact me.

Next blog: Lounging Around. (Yes, really)

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

Tuesday-Writing Day

close up of woman writing with penTuesday is writing day. My regular writing group, the Eastside Writing Room has been meeting for seven years. In a burst of nostalgia I found the original email I sent out in February 2013:

The Eastside Writing Room

For writers who may be busy, over-scheduled, and/or distracted

 Tuesday, March 5 and Tuesday, April 9     11:30 AM-1:30 PM

 The Writing Room is open—in a calm, quiet, and supportive environment.

Writers are often nurturing their dream of publishing while juggling the day job, family, friends, and the “stuff” of life. The Writing Room offers solace, silence, and no cell phones for busy writers.

We have committed to write together. Making that commitment has always worked for me as I sometimes “blow off” my self-commitment, but rarely one to others. State your intention, and then… write. We’ll check in how it went after the two hours. 

Interested? Email Ethel.

Beginnings

We began with five writers around my dining room table, meeting for two hours of pure writing time. NO to-do lists, no cell phones, no content sharing, no critiques. We alternated hosting homes and the host had beverages available; writers brought a snack or lunch.

Imagine the freedom from the following types of exchanges: Request: “Honey, will you take care of the repair guy who’s coming this morning? Since you’re home, I figure you can do this.”       Reply: “Oh, gosh I wish I could (?) But I’m sorry, I’ll be writing.”

Eastside (of Tucson) being part of our name, we’ve attracted writers who live within about a 15-minute drive of the three alternating hosts. Not too much driving time to take from valuable writing time.

Then Along Came COVID

Since mid-March we have been meeting virtually, via Zoom and/or email check-in to state our writing intentions. Our purpose is still the same.

The palpable energy of sitting around a table together is not there and I miss that. However, and this is a vital however; there’s something about knowing my writing mates are writing. They are at home, on their patio, at their kitchen table, or in their office and we are all writing.

Until We Meet Again- In Person

This virtual connection serves to let me smile at those little Zoom boxes on my screen or nod my head as I read intentions from my colleagues. “I’m working on revision for my novel,” “starting a new poem,” writing from a prompt,” “drafting a social media post,” “working on my book,” “not sure what will happen today but I’m showing up to write.” And then, I write.

Today we also can accommodate more folks around the table; two of our members are in California, the rest of us in the Tucson Arizona area, or Zooming while on a short vacation. We are part of the Zoom “Brady Bunch” groups that comprise 200 million Zoom participants. I can’t even begin to think how that works from a digital standpoint, but for me – it’s good to be connected.

Next blog –Speaking of Connections

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

My Dad in the Time of Covid, or What’s a Hugger To Do?

Today, July 24, 2020, is the 22ndanniversary of my father’s passing. Some days my memories of him are more vivid than ever before. I don’t question why that is. I just relish those memories.

Memories

Mom and Dad 1942

 

Dad age 52, saved one of these boys from drowning

with Ida Jussi -Finland 1983

with Sharon 1973

 

 

 

 

 

Family Christmas 1992

 

I’ve often said my dad was a natural goodwill ambassador.

He made friends everywhere he went. He did it with a handshake, a smile, a hug, and what I’ve come to realize as I think back, some really good listening.

There was something about him that made people respond to his friendly hello. Maybe it was the outstretched hand. Maybe it was a genuine smile. Maybe it was those grey eyes that looked right at you, really looked at you. Even the frostiest of personalities melted just a bit if they were around him.

Allan Erickson lived in a time when digital contact was just starting to be popular. He never used email or a cell phone; he never surfed the Internet. Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Zoom were still to be hatched. Yet he knew, made friends, and kept friends wherever he went from New York, up and down the East Coast to his retirement home in North Carolina. When he was with people, there was sure to be a hug, an arm link, a connection that lasted even after the gathering was over.

Living in the time of COVID

I wonder what he would do if he were alive today during this pandemic, not having that handshake, that ready access to a personal physical connection with people.

I’m sure he’d be cautious. I’m sure he’d be wearing a mask when he went out for “essentials.” He’d probably linger a bit to say hello to the Safeway cashier, CVS pharmacist, and the red-vested employees at Ace. He’d be proficient in thumbs-up, V for peace, head nods, and the American Sign Language hooked-index fingers sign for friend.

If he were a senior citizen as I am today he’d be sheltering at home. His square hands would hold the latest smart phone with the maximum saved contacts. His pudgy fingers would click on his laptop keyboard to send out zoom invitations. He’d be smiling that captivating smile from the zoom box with eyes that would look right at you, and you’d be pulled into that circle of good will.

I’m doing my best to be just like Dad.

More stories about Dad in Thinking of Miller Place. “Dad and Carol,” “The Sunday Climbing Tree” (also my Writing Life blog 7/23/2020), “Church Sundays.”  Also Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.  “The 7-Second Connection,” “Windows of Opportunity.” Both books available at Amazon or contact Ethel.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling , Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a ZOOM mic. 

Sunday Climbing Tree – in memory of Dad

Dad


There were many times my father provided the shoulders that carried me.

My earliest memory was this Miller Place memory that I’m sharing from my memoir Thinking of Miller Place: A Memoir of Summer Comfort. That was a literal carrying. Other literal carryings – learning to dive at Woodhull Landing beach by standing on his shoulders and flopping into the water, or being lifted up onto his shoulders to reach a light switch not yet within my grasp.

Over time the concept of shoulders changed. My Dad carried me up to that point when I didn’t need that “ride” on his shoulders. It happened when he gave me permission to NOT ride on his shoulders.

“You’re going to college. My work is done. Now I’m like your manager, not a parent.” Maybe he didn’t actually so it in so many words, but I got that message and I knew I was ready. You make your decisions now.

“I’m sorry you’re having money problems. You have to handle this.”

“This is a hard time for you. No, you don’t have to/need to come back and live with your mother and me. You know what you have to do.”

His words gave me permission and confidence to step out on my own in work, relationships, and in making and standing by moral and ethical decisions.

Thanks, Dad.

Allan Erickson March 27, 1918 – July 24, 1998

The story: The Sunday Climbing Tree

Sundays were special. It was church day.

The summer I was eleven, I just wanted to stay home on Sundays and play in the crabapple tree by the driveway. About once a month, Finn and I were left behind and spent church time in that tree, and so we called it The Sunday Climbing Tree.

“Please, Mom, I had a bad dream last night. I’m so tired. Can’t I just sleep a little this morning?”

“No. Get up.” No arguing when Mom used so few words. Off to church.

Several Sundays after that Finn and I concocted a more elaborate plan.

“Tell Mom your stomach hurts and you have to sit in the bathroom too long to be ready for church,” I urged my Finn who did like to spend time alone. Sometimes the bathroom was the only place to find that solitude.

“No, you tell her,” Finn’s muffled voice came from behind the closed door. She’d participate in the hoax but didn’t want to be too upfront about it.

“Mom, Eileen is still in the bathroom, and I didn’t even get in there yet. Can’t we just stay home? We’ll help Grandpa.” Offering to do chores was sort of a shortcut to heaven, and to make the offer for Grandpa always held extra merit.

A sigh from my mother. “Oh, alright. But stay on the property.”

All went according to plan. My grandfather gruffly allowed that we could stay with him while my mother, father, and older sister went to church. A chore exchange was involved.

“Take the dust brush and get all those cobwebs off the gliders.” Grandpa tested me to see if I’d cringe at the thought of spider webs.

I grabbed the wooden brush from his hand and ran back into the house. Grandpa’s acceptance of being the substitute parent usually ended as soon as my parents were out of sight, because so was he.

“Finn. Come out. It worked. We have to get the spider webs off the lawn chairs. Then we can go to the Sunday Climbing Tree.”

The Sunday Climbing Tree—heaven itself bordering the driveway, its branches cutting up into the sky above the peach, pear, and cherry trees. A small V nook way up near the top swayed with a delicious scariness on a breezy day. There was a limb extending out over the garden near the bottom. Finn and I both fit side by side on a great long branch that stretched out over the driveway.

Finn’s digestion problem solved, we dusted off the furniture and ran up the driveway. We were at our driveway branch outpost about five minutes after my dad’s blue station wagon had disappeared up the drive on the way to church.

“Let’s stay up in the tree until they get back from church.”

The Sunday Climbing Tree was most often a towering ship, the grass was our stormy sea, and the fallen apples other shipwrecked boats and passengers. It was easy to spend an hour in the tree, never touching ground. I rescued drowning passengers by hanging upside down by my knees on the garden limb. From there I scooped up one, two, or three grateful, crabapple survivors.

That Sunday, I climbed up to the tippy top to scout for pirates. It was easy going up.

Right hand on the knobby branch, left foot up, left hand reaches up to the branch, and pull up. I felt like I was on top of the world.

“Ahoy down there, scout,” I called back to Finn. “Any sign of land? Looks like a storm a-brewing ahead. But we’ll be safe here in the harbor.”

This was better than church. I must be closer to heaven than anybody sitting on those hard pews.

When I looked down, I realized I was on top of the world, at least the highest my world had ever been. Too high. I felt like one of those statues in the Davis’s cemetery up the road—turned to stone. My arms and hands clenched the branches. I knew I needed rescue.

“Finn! Eileen! I can’t get down. I’m scared.” I couldn’t even turn my head to look at her. “Eileen. Help me!”

“I can’t come up that high. I just can’t. Hold on.” She kept talking to me. “Just hold on.” She sat on the tree limb way down below. “I am looking up at you. You look like you are okay.” My rescue ship appeared up over the rise in the driveway—a light blue ship that looked vaguely like our Rambler station wagon.

It was not a hearty “ship ahoy” that greeted the blue car on its return from church but my twin sending out an SOS for help. When you are eleven, the best hero is Dad, Pops, or in this instance, Daddy.

Rather than climb down and leave me, my Finn called and called.

“Daddy! Ethel’s stuck. Daddy, come get her down.”

“Okay, I’m coming,” came Dad’s deep, even voice.

I heard his voice below me but still couldn’t look down. “Come on, Peanut, this will be just fine.”

I don’t know if he climbed up the tree or stood way down at the bottom and guided me down, but I do remember I had the best shoulder ride back to the house, with my hands around his whiskery chin and him saying, “No more climbing in the Sunday Climbing Tree on Sundays.”

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

 

Our Days- July 2020

Sheltering at Home

My husband and I are still sheltering at home. Tragically the COVID numbers in Arizona are up. We wear masks and gloves out in public (when we have to go out) and keep a CDC home. We still have socially distanced driveway breakfasts/coffee time with neighbors (temps permitting). A bit of shouting but we’re “together.” We can walk/bike in our neighborhood. Hank and I have morning talks. This listening and sharing is a very special time.

I write, follow inspiring writers online, support diversity as I can from home, and have hope.

Bighorn Fire

Windy Vista. It will be all right.

119,250 acres of our beautiful Catalina Mts. have burned. Five weeks of watching the fire move west to east across the Catalinas challenged my faith. It also brought faith back, seeing how over 1100 people from Hotshot crews, multiple county emergency response teams, Coronado Forest and inciweb teams, Pima, Pinal, and Cochise county departments successfully battled this fire 24/7. Not a single structure was lost, no lives were lost, and today July 11, we are at 85% containment with ongoing suppression and repair work. The operations crews updated us every day (a boon of social media) so facts were given calmly and fears reduced, community readiness assured. Our beloved mountains are scorched and yet there are areas saved, and it will grow back. Our gratitude is immense.

Easing My Heart

Our world and country are in turmoil. I do not believe people are bad. I pray each morning for peace in individuals, families, towns, cities, states, and envision peace moving outward from place to place. I keep thoughts of goodness in the front of my mind during the day.

I want you to see me as I see you, through the lens of pure acceptance. These days it may only be my eyes above my mask, but I believe my heart’s positive energy will waft over to you.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic.