Life Through the Lens of Pleasure

Here’s a question for you: How often do you do things just for your own personal pleasure?

Do you even know what those things would be?

I’m in a coaching program where our theme this month is embracing pleasure.

Even though I’m at a point in my life where my kids are grown, my partners are mostly self-sufficient, and I work for myself, I’m finding that I don’t often focus on pure pleasure.

Why? I’m not sure. Maybe some remnants of the Puritanical culture here in New England. Perhaps because I was taught that service to others come first. Maybe I’m still a bit of a workaholic, although you wouldn’t know it from my weekly schedule.

I allow plenty of time for daily spiritual practice, yoga, rest, and nourishing self-care throughout each day. But it’s about more than just how we spend our time.

Embracing pleasure is about the attitude.

I can do my morning routine of meditation, journaling, yoga, and brunch with a determination to get it done, check these things off the list, then get to my office to work.

But it’s very different when I dive into this same routine with the intention to savor each moment

Sure, there is a certain pleasure that comes from checking things off. Dopamine, anyone?

But I’m finding there’s even more juicy goodness in the act of being in each moment, no matter the activity. 

It’s even possible to savor the pleasure of housework. Hear me out. I like a clean and pretty home. Spending a few minutes doing the dishes and tidying up each morning contributes to that. I could do it with resentment, or rush through the process in order to finish up.

Or I can breathe, feel the warm water, be grateful for these plates and cups and bowls. 

Pleasure isn’t just about doing the things that you love, although that’s part of it. I mean, I made a list on a post-it note called “FUN & PLEASURE,” so I’d be reminded of the things I enjoy.

But again, any of these things could be done with a “checking it off” approach, which in my view misses the point.

What is the point? To enjoy life to the fullest.

We’re not here for very long, in the scheme of things. Why rush?

Why do we have this default need to be productive, get things done, move forward constantly? Why do we feel guilty when we do things just for our own joy? Doesn’t that sort of attitude contribute to burnout and even illness?

Honestly, I think we might (collectively) be addicted to the hustle.

My dear rebels and Thriving Artists, let’s flip the script. Let’s change the paradigm by starting with ourselves.

How can you begin to add more pleasure to your life, and embrace the joys of the things you already do?

I suggest that you start with a simple list, like my little pink post-it note. Write down your particular pleasures, even if they seem odd. I mean, de-cluttering is on my list. I find the process satisfying and enjoyable. So what?

Next, begin to cultivate awareness of how you’re feeling during any particular activity. Can you shift your lens just a bit, to embrace the pleasure in it?

It’s a bit like mindfulness practice. You’re encouraging yourself to notice how you feel, and tune in to the particulars of what your body is up to. The natural landscape on your walk or commute. The warm water of the shower, and the scent of the lavender soap you bought at the farmer’s market last summer. The smells of the aromatics and spices as you cook dinner.

These tiny sensory pleasures are everything.

Coax yourself to become more present to your daily activities. Include some non-productive times where you get to do your favorite things, just because. 

Embrace pleasure, and notice how it unfolds into your day like a cat stretching after a nap. 

Imbolc Blessings!

Imbolc, sometimes called Candlemas, celebrates the turning point from winter to spring. Here in New England, the nights are still long and the weather is cold, though the days grow longer and a bit lighter.

It’s the time when we plant the seeds of the spiritual work we want to pursue this year. We carefully craft our intentions, letting the growing light feed them as the Wheel begins to turn slowly toward spring.

As part of our celebration, we make and bless the candles we’ll use in this year’s rituals.

Our work at Imbolc might encompass setting new goals, releasing old patterns, creating healthy habits or planning new ways to become active in the Pagan community.

The early signs of spring appear: buds sprouting on the trees, snow beginning to melt and perhaps even a crocus or two coming up (though often we must wait for Spring Equinox for actual flowers).

We are anxious for spring to arrive so we can once again take walks outside and work in the garden. Yet we still face wintry weather, such as snow, ice storms and chilly winds. We learn to be more patient, watching the slow progress of the land’s awakening.

In Celtic lands, Imbolc was also known as Brighid’s Day, honoring the Goddess of poetry, smithcraft and healing. We create crafts and poems and include them in our rituals. We have time to explore indoor pursuits such as learning about astrology, designing a garden or practicing martial arts. We may have the opportunity to help those who are in a crisis situation and need our healing energies. We explore ways to simplify our daily lives.

During the last few weeks of winter, burrowing under the icy surface to work with deeply felt emotions can be very powerful spiritual work. We can learn to flow with our own emotions and those of others.

Imbolc is a good time to practice deep listening and pay closer attention to our inner landscape. We might find new ways to meditate, becoming more mindful or exploring our senses in more detail.

As we shed light on our hidden depths, we watch the days grow gradually longer and warmer, lifting our spirits as the Wheel turns toward spring.

NOTE: This post is an excerpt from my book Starcat’s Corner: Essays on Pagan Living. You can get your copy here.

Starcat’s Favorites: Snowy Days

I know, I know, I make no secret about winter being my least favorite season.

I understand that many people dread snowy days because they have to move all that snow around. I’m blessed to live with three strong men who deal with the snow moving, and thus I don’t have to do it myself.

The thing I like about snowy days is how beautiful and quiet everything is. It’s like permission from Mother Nature to actually slow down and rest.

Rest is something I’ve needed lots of, lately. Rather than feeling guilty about it, I’ve embraced it. So, I like it when the weather collaborates, and plans are cancelled.

Lately, I’ve mostly been reading books – the actual paper kind – but I do have some fun finds from the web to share with you:

I’m currently in the process of cataloguing the books in my home library. So far the list is handwritten (with part of it in a Word document), but I’ve been looking into the best cataloguing system. I think I’m going to go with LibraryThing.

Speaking of books, here are a couple of “best books” lists, one from Bookfinity and a much more detailed (and fun to read) one from The Marginalian.

I enjoyed this article, 5 Tips to Regain Your Power. “Your physical, mental health, and happiness are worth more than a potential missed opportunity. The most powerful word we have is a full sentence. No.

In modern Pagan mythology we most often think of the moon as feminine and the sun as masculine. But that wasn’t always the case.

Planning to travel in 2023? This might be the best time to make your bookings.

One of my mentors mentioned the “3-6-9” method of manifesting, and I hadn’t heard of it, so I looked it up.

Mike Dooley shared this article on the “light body,” and I found it quite interesting.

What are you reading these days?

How to Start a Creative Process Journal

You’ve probably kept some form of personal journal before, for yourself or for a class. But have you ever kept a journal specifically for your creative process? 

You might be writing a book, or it might be a process journal for another long-form creative project you’ve taken on, like making a mural or series of paintings, composing an album, or creating a business.

No matter the topic, keeping a process journal can be highly useful during a big creative endeavor. I’m going to use the example of writing a book – hey, I’m the book midwife, it makes sense! – but feel free to adapt it to your own needs.

What does one include in a writing process journal?

The main use I’ve found is to track what’s working – and equally, what isn’t – as you establish a regular writing habit

To further that goal, start by making an entry at the end of each writing session – that is, each time you sit down to focus specifically on writing (or editing, or brainstorming about) your book. 

Include the date and time, how long you wrote, how many words you wrote (if you’re tracking word count), what methods you used (sprints, Pomodoro technique, free writing, etc.), and how it felt. 

You might also want to include other information that will help you determine when you feel at your best and most creative, like the moon phase, how you slept the night before, and the like.

Here are three sample entries, so you can see what this could look like:

Tuesday 1/10/23, 11am: Did some writing sprints with 2 other writers on Discord. I did 3 sessions of 15 minutes each, and wrote 1072 words. I felt good, and the words flowed pretty easily. I had a good night’s sleep. Moon is waning gibbous. I stopped in the middle of a scene, while I still had energy, so it’ll be easier to start next time.

Saturday 1/14/23, 2:30pm: Wrote on my own today, for almost an hour. I only got 844 words – felt sort of sluggish today. I struggled with ending the scene. I slept fine, but I’m achy for some reason, and got hungry during the session. My brain doesn’t want to focus. Moon is last quarter today. 

Sunday 1/15/23, 11am: I joined a 90-minute co-writing session with that new online group, and it went super well! I wrote 1433 words, and enjoyed it. I got a little distracted near the middle of the call, but overall it went well and my creative ideas were flowing freely. I like having others there, even if we’re not interacting a whole lot. Slept okay last night. The moon is waning crescent. It snowed all day.

You can see from these examples (completely fictitious, but based loosely on my own experience) how a pattern is already beginning to emerge. This writer seems to do better earlier in the day, and when around other writers. 

The more entries you make, the more personal data you’ll have. Use it to observe your own rhythms and cycles. This will help you plan writing times and use methods that best serve you and your process.

You can also use your writing process journal to capture notes about your project when you’re not actually in writing mode. 

This might include, depending on the genre you’re writing in:

  • character studies
  • a flash of a scene that came to you in the night or while walking the dog
  • anecdotes or case studies you want to include
  • ideas for a subplot or added chapter
  • sketches of the places or people in your book
  • a list of candidates to write your Preface
  • graphics you plan to include
  • your response to writing prompts about world-building
  • notes for your eventual revisions and edits

Add your own ideas about what you’d want to keep in your writing process journal. 

If you don’t enjoy writing longhand, or can’t read your own writing after the fact, keep a journal in digital form. You can even do an audio log on your phone, just make sure it’s organized such that you can review it.

I suggest reviewing your writing process journal at least monthly. Look for clues about what will help you improve your process. I don’t mean that you should only focus on making things as efficient and productive as possible. I also want you to find the joy and pleasure in your creative project. This will keep you going when you start to struggle or become bored. 

Keeping a writing process journal is a powerful way of improving the experience of writing your book.

It’s also a great place to begin, if you haven’t started writing your book yet. You can compile all your ideas and notes in one place, and then commit to writing sessions, with the support of your journal.

Have you tried this? Is it something that appeals to you?

Starcat’s Best Books of 2022

Here it is, everyone, my annual Best Books post. But this time I couldn’t pick just 10, so I’m featuring my 14 favorite books from 2022.

As always, please note that these aren’t necessarily books that came out in 2022, just ones that I encountered and very much enjoyed.

I read 70 books in 2022. This is more than usual – I often average about a book per week. Apparently reading was a useful coping mechanism for me while grieving and when I was quarantined with Covid in November. 

Here are the books that stood out the most and became my 2022 favorites:

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. This book, which was gifted to me last year, speaks perfectly to where I am in my life currently. My spirit guides told me to read it this autumn, and they were right (of course). Sometimes it helps to have a bird’s eye view of where we are in life, and May provides just such a perspective for those undergoing a “wintering” experience. 

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. This book beautifully combines historical fiction with a touch of the paranormal. I loved the evocative language. The story carries you forward with just enough insight to keep you guessing. The ending was perfect. I want to read more by Morton.

Mastery by Robert Greene. As part of the WEALTH course, I’d already read Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power. A friend handed me this book and I devoured it. As a creative entrepreneur, it was fascinating to read this study of people from history who stayed focused on their craft for a lifetime. When you follow your callings, despite distractions and difficulties, you gain access to your unique magick. This book inspires me to stay focused on my most powerful creations. 

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. This was the first fiction of Gilbert’s I’ve read, and it was enchanting. It is historical fiction, but with a hint of the otherworldly (this seems to be a genre I resonate with lately). It also turns out to be a meditation on love. The ending was unexpected, but stays true to the characters and their nature. 

The Three “Only” Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence, and Imagination by Robert Moss. I’ve long enjoyed the works Moss has written on dreamwork. In this book, he expands his repertoire into the use of synchronicity and imagination in living a purposeful life. I highly recommend it. 

The Girl and the Goddess by Nikita Gill. I’d read Great Goddesses: Life Lessons from Myths and Monsters, which is mainly poetry, and knew Gill was a powerful poet. But this book was also a coming of age story. I loved it. The contrast between the main character’s daily life and the presence of divine magick leading her onward was exquisite. The lyrical language lights me up. Read it!

Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: the Journals of Alice Walker, 1965-2000 by Alice Walker and Valerie Boyd. Alice Walker is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I’m a lifelong journal keeper, so when I heard she was releasing her journals, I had to read them. I wasn’t disappointed. This tome shows the balance of creative genius and human flaws that all of us bear. As a writer, I found it inspiring and uplifting. As a human being, it touched me deeply. 

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This book blew my mind. I can’t imagine creating such an epic tale of time travel and having it make sense to the reader, but Niffenegger manages it with aplomb. It was a fascinating story, with characters who felt authentic. This is powerful writing. I was captivated and swept along until the final word. 

My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem. This book is powerful medicine. I feel like its philosophy and techniques (should) form a huge part of the future of our society. Despite the heaviness of the topic, Menakem brings hope and caring to the discussion of the healing we need, individually and collectively.

Circe by Madeline Miller. I have a fond spot for the Greek myths, which I studied in high school and college. Miller takes a relatively minor character from The Odyssey and creates an epic tale of love, loss, and identity. This is well worth reading, both as a highly entertaining story and as a parable for magickal women. I loved it.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. I also want to give an honorable mention to her book The Once and Future Witches, which is the one I heard of first. But of the two, this one is my favorite. The theme in my favorite books recently seems to be “modern or historical fiction with a touch of magick,” and this book fits that bill. Well, there’s more than a touch of magick here. Trust me – it works. 

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link. I don’t often read collections of short stories, but this one drew me in. This is a collection of strange modern faery tales. It is intended for a teenage audience, but I found all of the stories both entertaining and thought-provoking. Some of them were hilarious. 

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. I’ve been enjoying the weird worlds that Murakami conjures, since discovering his writing a few years ago. This is one of my favorites so far, and not just because it has a cat in it. Reading a Murakami novel is like entering a dream world, where everything makes sense in a strange way until you wake up. When you leave the world of the novel, it lingers in your imagination like a rare perfume. If you enjoy the unusual, you’ll like this one.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Being a long term bookwyrm makes it extremely hard to pick favorite books. But I would venture to say that this book is in my top favorites of all time. It is a masterpiece of lyrical prose. It touches all the inner and outer senses. I’m in love with her writing. I’ve ordered her other novel, The Starless Sea, and look forward to diving in. 

What did you read last year that you loved? What’s on your to-read list for 2023?


Word of the Year 2023: Trust

Happy New Year, everyone!

As longtime readers know, each year around this time, I read back through my journals and do a year-end ritual of reflection. This year I’m finding that I’m averse to it, or most of it anyway.

This past weekend I finished reading through my 2022 journal entries and it just left me profoundly sad. There were a lot of deaths in my life in 2022.

The loss of my Dad was the most significant, followed closely by the death of my familiar, Percy LoveCat. But I also lost my Uncle Walt (Dad’s brother), my old friend Luke (who I’d recently reconnected with), and my childhood neighbor and friend David. These were all people who had a significant impact on my life, even though there were plenty of years (in the case of Luke and David) when I didn’t see or interact with them.

Even Queen Elizabeth II died in 2022! It sounds weird to mourn her loss when I’m not a British citizen, but I’m of English, Scottish, and Irish descent, and it feels like a significant change, in a big-picture way. 

I’m well aware that, even with the loss and grief, there are many blessings and things to celebrate. I also know there is much to anticipate in the coming year.

So I’m cutting myself some slack, and not doing the parts of the ritual that don’t appeal to me. I’m trying not to judge this aversion as bad or good. It is what it is.

It feels so weird, though, because normally I delight in the process.

I did make a vision board, and picked a word of the year (TRUST), because those things still felt fun. The word of the year came to me without trying. 

I went more for a vibe, feelings, and aesthetics in my vision board this year, rather than specific things or places to manifest in my experience. I love how it came out. It feels right. 

What about you? How is your year-end and new year process going? Are you doing the things you normally do at this time of year, or changing it up?


In Which I Surrender…

My 2022 Word of the Year is RECEIVE, but over the course of this year my inner work has morphed into a theme of SURRENDER

I’m moving from the head to the heart, in terms of which part of me gets to lead the way. I’ve been tapping more deeply into my intuition and the wisdom of my inner self. 

Losing Percy Lovecat in July really hit me hard, and I found it challenging to do some of the things I’d taken for granted in the past. I slowed way down, and only did the essential things in my business. I said no to a lot of events and gatherings.

Then my Dad died in late September, and any momentum I’d built up over the summer dissipated immediately. Grief can be all-encompassing. 

Having Covid in early November certainly didn’t help.

Like I told Quester, I usually live my life “like a straight-A student,” making sure I check all the boxes and get things done. But the impact of grief this year has made this impossible. I’m probably at a C- at this point, or even a D. (This is judging by my inner critic’s high standards, mind you).

The weird thing is that there have been no consequences. Life goes on. So does my business. No one in my life seems to mind that I’ve turned inward. 

Meal planning? Nope. Making videos? Not much. Planning outings or gatherings with friends? Haven’t felt like it. My planning skill, an innate part of my Virgo Sun, seems to have deserted me. But I haven’t gotten any flack for it.

When I realized that, I was like, “Well, then, what’s the point? Why do I bother to do all this stuff if no one besides me even cares?!” I had an existential moment, and then realized: it’s an ego death.

The ego brain tries to control things by hustling, forcing, or willing things to be a certain way. It’s doing this in order to protect us. That’s its job.

When we drop the reins, whether by choice or circumstances, we surrender to Divine flow. We give our inner self, and our spirit guides, more space to help us. 

This is, in and of itself, a form of receiving.

But the ego won’t like it. Chances are there will be backlash from that part of us.

Mine is having a bit of a meltdown about it. 

But learning to lead with your heart, or your intuition, is worth all the ego angst. Your ego self won’t really die, as it fears. It’s a useful part of the human psyche. It just needs to learn a supporting role, rather than directing the show. 

What are some of the tools I’m using to support my transformation to a new way of being?

Awareness. When I feel an intense emotion or get triggered by something, I stop and feel into it. Rather than letting my brain assign a reason – “I’m stressed about lack of money” or “What if that person is judging me?” – I go deeper. Often the feeling is grief or fear. The mind wants to blame our feelings on something external, to ease the pain. If we just let them be feelings, and experience them, they seem to dissipate more quickly.

Yoga. After a few months away, I’ve recently gotten back to my near-daily yoga practice. My body is super thankful. I feel stronger already, and have a bit more energy for daily tasks.

EFT (aka tapping). I admit that I was resistant to this for a long time. I would do it if led by a practitioner in a workshop, but never did it on my own. Thanks to an assignment from a coach, I’m now doing EFT on my own and it makes a world of difference. Like yoga, it allows one’s body to process emotions in depth.

Listening within. I’m taking more time to listen and see what advice my inner guides have for me. Often this takes the form of a Tarot or oracle card draw, or using my pendulum when I want a specific yes-no answer. But sometimes it’s just free-form listening, which usually leads to…

Journaling and/or channeled writing. It’s no surprise to me that writing is an easy way for my inner wisdom to emerge. You might have a different method. The idea is to find a way to bypass the Talking Self and let your inner expression flow. 

Getting extra support. Earlier this year, I signed on for a couple of new magickal coaching containers. One is a barter with a longtime client and friend. The other was an offering from an acquaintance that intrigued my soul. At the time, I didn’t know why I might need this extra support. I’m so glad I listened to my intuition, because it’s amazingly helpful at this point.

I won’t lie to you and say that this is an easy process. It’s not, at least for me, at this time. But I’m already seeing some of the benefits of surrendering to this transformation. 

By focusing on my inner work as a priority, life feels more meaningful, even here in the morass of grief. By not stressing out about the little stuff, solutions seem to present themselves more easily, and I’m not adding more pain. Being supported on this part of my journey helps me to feel seen, cared for, and nurtured. 

I’ll update you as the story evolves…

Starcat’s Favorites: The Mysteries

Back in the late summer, I signed myself up for a couple of new – well, I guess you’d call them life coaching packages, though it’s more like magickal or spiritual coaching, really.

One was an offering from an inspiring coach I’d met via the WEALTH course. I signed up for a free consult she’d posted about, and connecting with her lit up something in me, so I joined her program.

The other was a barter with a longtime client who is an amazing energy worker. I’m in her program as well as getting private coaching sessions.

At the time when I set these up, I couldn’t really see why I would need them. I felt like I already had plenty of support in place. Yet the Universe was clearly nudging me forward, so I trusted my intuition and went ahead with both.

I’m so glad that I did. Both have been invaluable in my grieving and healing process. I’m in a huge time of transformation, and having these two powerful women on my team is such a blessing.

The first coach I mentioned has monthly themes as part of her program, and in November we’ve been diving into the idea of DEVOTION. In one of the group calls, we did a guided meditation and then some journaling to discover what we’re devoted to currently.

It’s probably no surprise to you, dear reader, that I’m devoted to THE MYSTERIES. I mean, it wasn’t truly surprising to me, but I appreciated the reminder and having a kind of umbrella term for all the things that light me up: stories, magick, the Feminine Divine, creativity, wisdom, dreams, learning, the world of the imagination.

I’m a huge fan of The Mysteries, and I’m devoted to exploring them as I walk my path. I’ll probably even write about them, again.

Oh, and in my grieving process, I’ve found that I’ve returned with even more enthusiasm to what were probably my earliest pleasures in this lifetime: reading (fiction, in particular, because stories…) and hanging out with cats. That’s where you’ll find me this winter, curled up with a good book, a snuggly cat, and probably some tea.

Here are some articles and fun finds for you to enjoy as you snuggle in for late autumn:

A PSA and reminder: don’t try to be Superwoman. “My value is NOT determined by how productive I am, by how much I’m creating, or how much I’m doing.” Yes.

I discovered this “Leisure Learning” series and it’s fascinating to see what another creative person is discovering. Super inspiring.

I’m definitely in an “inner winter” season right now, and this article from Rebecca Campbell was helpful to read. On a related note, this is an older post but it’s such a helpful list of ways to deal with grief around the holidays.

My friend Sunshine offers these 5 Rituals to Try This Autumn. See if any of them resonate with you, then give one a whirl.

I met this cool person during a virtual conference earlier this month, and her art journal virtual retreats look awesome!

The new Energy Almanac for 2023 is out! Get yours today. They also make terrific gifts.

Sending you big blessings!

Starcat’s Favorites: Milton C. LoveCat

In the midst of all the chaos of this autumn, we welcomed a new feline family member into the fold. Everyone in the extended family is completely charmed by Milton.

I know you are, too, right?

He was rescued by some dear friends who weren’t able to keep him themselves, but thought of our cat-loving household. They named him Milton, for a cat they’d had years ago – not knowing that my grandfather, who lived on this land, was named Milton!

Such a cool synchronicity. I feel like Grampa sent him to cheer us up while we’re grieving the loss of my Dad (who was Milton’s son-in-law) and also Percy LoveCat.

He’s a loving, extraverted cat who wants to play and cuddle. He loves to explore – curious is his middle name. He also adores dogs and wants to play with them. We’re delighted to have him in the family.


I haven’t been spending as much time online as usual (I’ve been reading books while cuddling Milton, instead), but here are a few links from things I’ve discovered this autumn so far:

Who doesn’t love a good money windfall? Jeannette Maw has tips on how to manifest one for yourself.

As someone with hundreds (perhaps even thousands?) of books, the notion of paring them down to just 30 gives me the chills. But still, it’s an interesting exercise

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this November? Are you building a world for your novel or series? Here’s a helpful post on creating a believable setting.

Here’s a list of some of the best sci-fi and fantasy published this year. You’re welcome.

Enjoy the bright autumn days and the cooler nights. Blessings!

My Dad Is A Hurricane

Well, damn. I thought my last post, about losing Percy LoveCat, was a tough one to write and share. This one is even more intense. Get the Kleenex.

On Thursday, September 29, 2022, my Dad, Owen Henry Grant, died unexpectedly at home at the age of 81 (nearly 82) from a heart attack. He died before the paramedics arrived. 

He went out the way he wanted to, though it traumatized my Mom (who had to try and revive him while on the phone with 911 dispatch) and shook the foundations of our entire family. You see, he had made it clear that he didn’t want to go to the hospital or a nursing home and have that be his end. He wanted to go on his own terms, at home, quickly. So he did.

In retrospect, it seems like he knew that his time was near, from the things he said and the way he communicated them. The thing was, none of us believed him, because he’s literally been saying he was going to die soon for half his life! He lost some of his best friends early in life, as well as his father, who died fairly young. Dad was convinced that would be his path, too.

But this year was different. Once a gruff, crusty Mainer who didn’t express his emotions willingly, he had started telling everyone how blessed he was, how he’d led a wonderful life, and how much he loved his family. He’d often offer these unsolicited rants of appreciation at our weekly family dinners. My daughter-in-love called them his “Grampa speeches.”

This summer, sitting outside together at one of our family gatherings, Dad was talking about his wishes to be cremated and to have his ashes spread here on the family land. A few minutes later he was gazing off into the distance. I was sitting next to him, and asked what was up. He said “I was just admiring your trees. I think I’m going to be in all of them.” I was stunned and brought to tears immediately. This was probably the most poetic thing I’d ever heard Dad say. I just put my hand on his arm and nodded. I don’t think anyone else even heard what he said, at the time. These days, walking through the woods on our land is one of the few things that comforts me. Dad is there, keeping me company.

BlackLion and I had planned a week-long tropical getaway to the Dominican Republic, just the two of us, starting on September 30th. In the weeks leading up to it, there were hurricanes in the area. Dad remarked at one point, “Well, I guess you won’t be able to go on your vacation.” He sounded pretty certain. I’d been keeping track of the weather forecast and knew we were fine, but Dad liked to watch the ever-melodramatic mainstream national news shows. I just did the “smile and nod” thing. Little did I know that he was the hurricane. When my Mom called me at 10pm on the evening Dad died, I was lying on my bed, all packed for an early start to the airport the next morning. I was just watching TikTok videos, wondering why I wasn’t asleep yet. My Dad, the hurricane, was the reason we had to postpone our trip.

The night before he died, we had our weekly family dinner at my Aunt’s house next door. Dad was in a good mood, and Mom said they talked about it the next day, how much fun they’d had. When I left, I gave him a hug. Dad was famous for not liking hugs at all, in a family of huggers. I could get away with hugging him sometimes. Because I was supposed to be going away for a week, I hugged him that night. I didn’t say why, and he didn’t resist this time, not at all. He hugged me back. I’m so thankful for that.

We held a beautiful interfaith Celebration of Life memorial service for Dad, outdoors at our place. No religious stuff, no formal funeral home ceremony, no suits and ties – he hated that kind of thing. There were bagpipes, lots of photos, and military honors and we kept it short and sweet, with a big potluck afterwards for family and friends.

It’s been a very hard month. It’s still hard. Grief sucks, and is weird, and has such ups and downs. I’m so thankful for our close family and my beloved friends. We also have a new family member, a 6-month-old kitten, who I’ll introduce later. Apparently the spirit of my maternal grandfather, Milton, who had lived on this land and who died in 1978, sent him to cheer us up at this difficult time. 

This past weekend I thought I’d clean up some stuff in my office. I was putting away some of my birthday gifts and found my card from Dad. For years, he didn’t even sign his own name to birthday cards – Mom signed for both of them. But this time he’d not only given me a card and gift on his own, but had written “love you” on both the card and the Amazon gift card, and had written “kiss” on where the envelope was sealed. 

Me and my Dad last Christmas.

This, for him, was a gushing emotional thing to do. He knew he was leaving soon. He loved me, and his whole family, even though it had been hard for him to show it for much of his life. I’m so grateful for my Dad and all the time we had together. I’m thankful for the way the years softened him, so we got to know that sweet side. I’m glad he enjoyed his life, and that it was twice as long as he’d once thought it would be!


Dad is very much missed and will always be part of this land, as he intended. He lives on in our hearts and memories. I love you, Dad.