July Fifth

We walked all the way round the cul-de-sac today,

The dogs, the characters in my head, and I.

They distracted me while I tried to count down from twenty four, a task which in the moment seemed terribly important. I needed to count down from twenty four while I was walking, you see, or else I would have had to do it after walking and that would not do.

So the characters distracted me while the dogs found mud.

There was something all tight and stuck in my hip, my walk was halting, not smooth, not dancing on a wave.

Not quite drowning in a wave either, more falling, more stumbling.

That’s all right.

Better to warm up the machine with a quiet walk with dogs and characters and numbers, slowly, on my own familiar territory

than to try to do it out there in the world where one must pay bills

or to not do it at all.

I made it to eighteen.

Independence Day

Like a Sabbath, Independence Day.

I will not drive, I will not touch money. I have already said thank you to Grace and the dogs. I have already encouraged students with brief messages.

Thanks and grace and song to celebrate the food I am privileged to have, free of hunger.

Thanks and chores and dance to celebrate the house I am privileged to have, free of vagabondage.

Thanks, thanks, thanks for cool water, for good books, and for good dogs who smell of grass and sunshine.

July 3, 2019

A horse-dog and a cat-rabbit were walking close at hand…

The sky is completely cloudless. Sweet Earth has put nothing between me and Deep Space but tiny things I cannot see.

So I look up, up, up as I walk and as I walk I am falling up, up, up into the Sky and the Sky is reaching out for me.

The laundry is heavy with dew, but it will be dry by the time I have to dress.


Maybe not.

Summer makes both possibilities beautiful.

July 2

Cool grass, wet air, mosquitos

Stop and love on the lilacs’ pods which wait for ripeness and wind to shake them free.

There’s a space in the yard which I call The Spinney — 10 points to Ravenclaw if you know that allusion — and it is not a Spinney yet. But it will be. Grace does not mow between the two rows of lilacs so that it can become a Spinney, someday, full of lilac volunteers and wildflowers from the meadow.

There are four lilac babies so far by my count.

“Throw the ball!” they say, “The soccer ball!” And so I throw the soccer ball and they chase and sniff and leave it there.

“Bring me the ball!” I encourage, and both of them look at me as though they love me despite my mental deficiencies. It is not moving, it does not need supervision. They just wanted me to make it go. #ThinkLikeAnAussie

To Some Extraordinary Graduates

“What do you notice?”

The first question of a Signum education.

Not “Do you know what I know?” or “Can you find what I taught you?”

But “What do you notice?”

Do you smell the wild thyme and sage and marjoram which grow over the path?

Do you watch with bated breath while those upon the path tread the belly-satisfying ancient steps of the Hero’s Journey on the Approach to the Inmost Cave?

Do you thrill to know that “thyme” from French, from Latin, from Greek, once meant a burnt sacrifice?

In these words about people and places and plots which are not real, do you find the comfort of Truth and the hand of the divine upon your shoulder?

What do you notice?

We enter into the unknown to discover its secrets

Not so that we can claim them,

We enter the exploration of secrets so that we might enter the other world

And thereby find a new way of being.

So that we might have the peace of a starry night sky right in our own soul.

Not to have the secrets, but to be the secrets.

The unknown has its own kind of night-beauty,

different than the beauty of familiarity:

a place of dreams and inward visions.

The call of the unknown is an invitation to imagining and storytelling,

Which we might refuse once, but never thrice.

And now that you have noticed, now that you have found what makes you gasp as the story unfolds, what wakes you up with joy, now you know what, so what, now what, feet to the fire, jot, think, plan, tell, meet the mentor, write, cross the threshold, delete, sift, shift, read, draw the map, write, delete, search, post, listen, exchange, find, sort, step off the path, bleed, sweat, weep — because if there are not tears on your face you are missing the point — write, delete, resonate, name the dragon, yearn, critique, receive, and hold in your heart that critique this deep can only be given by one who believes in you, turn around and encourage, step off the map, write, write, write, and armed with courage like a machete and with your battle-cry, go into the jungle you have made until all that remains are the beautiful bones — the granite outcroppings — the vein of gold revealed.  The one that was yours to find and shape and bring into the light.

All of you sport the muscles and the callouses of this work; each of you holds the grail.

Now turn that chalice in your hands.  What do you notice?

With grateful acknowledgement of inspiration by the unknown author of “Prayer of Darkness”

September 23, 2016

The Morning of Autumn

Do I begin from a place of balance?
Shall I begin from a place of balance?
So… where is this famous place of balance?

Equal night, equal day, harvest – yes!  
These I understand, these I celebrate, these I am deeply grateful for!

I can’t claim to begin from balance, stillness, all-in-order.  
But I can begin from a place of deep gratitude.  Here it is:

Thank you, beloved Great Spirit.
Simply thank you.
Always thank you.
I am grateful for this harvest, this privilege, this wealth in my life
I am humbled by the crisp of the apple and its juice, sweet, tart.
I weep with joy that there is food to give my family.
If I slice it one way, I see the star;
if I slice it another way, a quarter moon.
If I come upon Apple in the woods, 
some last sisters of an orchard hanging on with sass and spunk 
long after the farmhouse has gone to nothing but stone foundation
then I relish the bite and hard and small of feisty survivor apples
and know that my feast is shared with you,
with the Antlered One
with The Wild Family.
From apple to wonder to looking into liquid eyes unfathomable
which say that winter is coming.
Does it always come down to that?

I think it must.
Even in the joyful throes of gratitude and plenty, you tell me that winter is coming.

Maybe balance is not stillness.
Maybe balance is holding the last rays of summer sun in my hair and the first whispers of frost in my forward-looking eye.

If balance is motion, dance, juggle, then I can begin from balance.
Gratitude and worry,
Light and dark,
Summer and winter.

Here we go.


This very short dragon tale first appeared in the Almost An Inkling writing contest sponsored by Signum University, in which it won a literary honorable mention, October 2015.


It did not have a name for itself.  Its Creator did not have a name for it.  Names were vulnerability, after all, and it was to be invulnerable.  The people had called it by many names of their own making.  Name your fear, little ones.  Let me in.

Neither had it a body to be stabbed, burned, drowned, or be-spelled, not until the people’s minds formed it.  It took shape the moment they thought of what they could never conquer.  The people in this time and place called it Dragon and formed it into a thing of fire and iron.

It was made of hate and it cast hate upon the waters and it could wait a very long time for the interest of hate to accrue and come home.  It made the path to itself long, placed one rumour here, another there, scorched earth pointing yet another way.  A long road allowed it to savor the meal one delicate morsel at a time.  Contradictions drew out the hunt.  Opportunities to learn the sure stab or the perfect shot or the way of magic could tempt the treats to steep themselves in vengeance like the cherries steeped themselves in rum.  Finally, just as the bite was seasoned with despair, it moved into the mortal’s path.

The widow named it as she hunted, named it with her own vital, writhing hate.  Butcher.  Tormentor.  Defiler.  It tasted the names and nourished itself on the choice viands.  Paths turned, patience burned, sanity slipped – oh! so tasty.  Time to consummate the meal.

It placed itself on the rocky mountaintop which the widow had set in her sights.  It decked itself in razor scales and reeking fumes.  It sniffed delicately for the sword.  “Rub it every night,” the mysterious wise man had said, “with the blood of your revenge,” and after so many hundreds of nights the sword carried the scent of the blood from the funeral clothes and of the village which had turned her out for defiling graves.

It smelled her, felt her, saw her and she was here.  She gripped her weapon.

Come to me.  Be perfect.  Nourish me with perfect hate.  We will be one.

She screamed her puny words, giving voice to fury.  She could not understand its magnificent ones.

It leaned in to her, eager, hunger drawn out to so very, very sharp a point.

The lightest breeze ghosted past them.

She stopped.

Silence fell.

She read the want in its eye.

Sword tip low, feet feeling for each step, she backed away.  She squeezed the ring on her finger and drew in the fresh air.

“You might eat me,” she whispered, more to steady herself than to communicate.  “You might eat me, but I swear you’ll starve.”

She remembered then, and wept, and loved.

And it crumbled to ash and putrescence and lay until the people did not believe in it and made it a new name.

The Busy Puppy!

Color scenes from the Busy Puppy’s life!

The Busy Puppy Comes Home: In this exciting first book, discover who came to play with the Busy Puppy!

The Busy Puppy’s Busy Day: There’s so much to do when you’re The Busy Puppy!

Birch Island Books Editing Services

Will you edit my writing?


We have a few ground rules, a few procedures, and a simple fee schedule.

Ground rules?

• I’m sticking for now to speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, crossover, or things which defy definition by genre but the bookstore people would put you on those shelves.  No nonfiction unless it’s technical or reference.  I love a good trigonometry table.

• No nonconsensual sex scenes, I can’t let that kind of energy into my life.  In a character’s past with brief mention is OK, but don’t push on that boundary.  I will simply return your work and money to you.

How does it work?

  • We arrange a start date; just email me and we’ll figure out the schedule
  • You upload your stuff to a Google document and share it with me.
  • You send your payment to our paypal account.
  • We treat your work with the utmost respect and attention.
  • We comment directly on the Google document.
  • If you’re checking in to the Google document as well, you might even be able to answer our questions or concerns while we’re in the process.


I – Laurie – am the primary editor.  Sometimes my wife lends a hand.  She’s fabulous – she’s my line editor.  If you go into Very Techie Realms, I’ll ask my resident Tech Support to run his eyes over it, too.

How about the fee schedule?

$1,000 US per Thing.

A Thing can be:

  • Two Page Response Thing to a complete novel with plot holes, character comments, open questions, etc.
  • Line Editing Thing – very detailed – for any 25,000 words.  That can be a couple of novelettes, one sticky section in the middle of a long work, epic poetry, anything.
  • Obviously I’d be happy to line edit your 125,000 word novel, just buy five Things.
  • If you have a novel ready for me, I suggest you buy a Two Page Response Thing, see if you like my work, then buy enough Line Editing Things to cover the whole novel or the portion that needs it most.  That way I already know the setting and characters in case you set me down on page 342.

Paragraph Numbers for Chapter 5 of the 1937 Edition of The Hobbit

For those of us working with the fascinating 1937 edition of The Hobbit, here’s your index to all the paragraphs of Chapter V.  This chapter is the most changed between 1937 and 1951, with different plot elements and a very different Gollum.  Each paragraph is identified by the prefix 1937.05. then the paragraph number within that chapter.  Thank you to John Rateliff for his help with the text.  Gratitude to my Data Mooshing Specialist, Daroc Alden.

I have used this text:

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit: or There and Back Again. The Children’s Book Club (1942).

1937 Chapter 5 Hobbit index

Paragraph Numbers for The Hobbit

Fellow Tolkien fans and academicians, we’re happy to know that so many different editions and printings of The Hobbit abound.  In your scholarly writings of doom, you dutifully write down the page numbers for your quotations, but when your readers go searching for it – their page numbers are probably different.  Fear not, here’s your index to all the paragraphs of The Hobbit  by unique paragraph number.  Each paragraph is identified by its chapter number, decimal, paragraph number within that chapter.  May clarity reign.  Thank you to Robin Reid for her help with the text.  Gratitude to my Data Mooshing Specialist, Daroc Alden.

I have used the text edited by Douglas Anderson: Tolkien, J.R.R. (2012-02-15). The Hobbit: 75th Anniversary Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Hobbit Paragraph Index