Writing a story is often a long process for me with red pencil slashes, rewrites, and revisions before arriving at a polished product. What goes on behind the scenes? Sifting ideas. Where’s the focus? Does this align with the theme? Does it make sense? Will my beta reader “get” what I am sharing?

Since most of my writing has its seeds in real life – mine and that of others, I do memory lane work- looking at photos (of which I have over 20,000 on my laptop), perusing journals, staring into the space of my distant and recent past, walking in the park observing couples, kids, singletons. This usually means I cannot write a polished piece at the last minute. I admire those who do. When words morphing into a story do spill effortlessly onto the paper I must admit I’ve been musing, and seeing sparks of the idea from different times and places in my life.

In this case Love was the given theme. Valentine’s Day holds more than a bit of value in our house with cards, phone calls, and texts to and from loved ones. The opportunity to share a love story this past Valentine’s Day for The Center For Spiritual Living Tucson newsletter, complete with deadline, moved it along to completion.



Even after that, the love theme continued into April with a Love Boat topic at Odyssey Storytelling, my favorite live storytelling event here in Tucson. But the memory sifting went back farther than this year or even several years.



When Foreigner’s hit song “I Want to Know What Love Is” came out in 1984 it was the perfect accompaniment to another of my overdramatic, sad, and exhausting relationship break-ups. It was then I began to seriously search for answers. Just what is Love?



I looked at it from the perspective of What is the love that I feel for my family and friends? This gradually led to thinking about What is love for strangers? Is it possible? And at an even slower pace- What about loving or maybe caring about people who seem so different from me? The mantra of “we are more alike than we are different” yielded a cognitive response of, “Well, OK.” But my emotions often shake their little emotional heads. “Mmm, but to love? Maybe not.” I watched in awe when my 9-year-old grinning grandson exhibited his whole-hearted, whole body gyrations of “I looove pizza!” Chogyam Trungpa said, “Everyone loves something, even if it’s only tortillas.” That may sound trivial, but really, there’s something going on if I say or show I love something/someone. To me it’s a feeling, a sense, an essence. I am a manifestation of the essence of love. It’s up to me to choose to use this love essence, share it, give it, and receive it.

Here’s one aspect of Love from almost 40 years ago that still holds true for this period of time in mid-April 2024.


The speaker was young and earnest; he seemed very poised. He had been invited to talk to this group because we needed to hear what he had to say. The room was packed. There were probably 200 people – seniors, couples, moms, dads, singles, a few teens sitting in the back row with that arms crossed I-don’t want-to-be-here-but-the-court-said-I-better-be-here slouch.

Our speaker launched into his intro. He had a pleasant voice, and an interesting way of telling us about the power of love.

From the back of the room there came a sound of rustling and clattering, as if something had dropped. The noise traveled down along the side aisle, and then back up the aisle.

A few people turned to look. Where is that noise coming from? What was that? Our speaker kept talking with great confidence. 

The noise started again; it was like the clattering of footsteps, but not overly loud. It was just kind of distracting; a flappity-flap of uneven, running footsteps. More people were distracted.  

The noise was coming from a 4-year-old child, escaped from his parent’s grasp. He was running up and down that side aisle. Now people were fidgeting in their seats murmuring, Where are his parents? Who is he with? Why doesn’t someone stop this child?

Our speaker stopped, looked up, and took off his glasses. A huge smile spread across his face as he watched the flappity-flapping tyke running up and down the very long aisle. He was now using his little toy truck, scraping it along the wall so we heard a clackety-clack of the toy along with the flappity-flap of his shoes. 

The speaker pointed and said, “Well now, look at that. Isn’t that something?”

Of course, we all turned to look at Flappity. “Someday,” continued our intrepid speaker, “when that child is older, and if that child needs to find a place where he’s accepted, he’ll know he can come here because we have accepted him with love.”

The little boy stopped, clutched his toy truck, and beamed at all of us.

There was a collective sigh of relief, or was it a sigh of the acknowledgment of love? 

An older gentleman in the third row reached out his hand to the boy. “Come sit with me and show me your toy.” And he did. 

“Love is the grandest healing and drawing power on earth. It is the very reason for our being, and that explains why it is that people should have something or someone to love.  The life that has not loved has not lived, it is still dead. Love is the sole impulse for creation, and the man [woman, child, person] who does not have love as the greatest incentive in his [their] life, has never developed the real creative instinct. No one can swing out into the Universe without love, for the whole Universe is based upon it. ~ Ernest Holmes The Science of Mind 

When, how, where did that unconditional love swing out to you? From you? How did it make you feel?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.