“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


exploring. navigating. speaking with the stars.

an old grocery list of my mother's.
iphone picture with the light gone pink.

it explains everything, and nothing.  she wrote cough drops, and i wrote, after questioning her, hall. cherry flavored.  i crossed the word through when i tossed the package into my grocery buggy.  she wrote gum;  i, after questioning her, wrote dentyne, cinnamon.  she wrote cat food, i wrote no salmon.  every time i shopped for her, she'd hand me tiny scribbled lists, smaller than 3x4 inches, and i'd stand there in her kitchen and complain and question her.  she'd make me return the list if the other side was still blank, and the paper would wait to be used again, stuck in a drawer with nail files and pens.  that's where i found this one.  it makes me laugh to see that i wrote whatever  near the bottom of the page.

What word did you choose as your travelling companion in 2013?
How is it working for you? Where have the surprises been?
If you didn’t choose a guiding word, what word sums up your year so far? And why?


i chose no word and then found it hard to write.  coincidence?  perhaps.  

i've grasped at words all year, and like all sane and wild things, they've flown, skedaddling just beyond my fingertips and vision.  if i squint my eyes i see glimmers and waves of heat where they once were.  

i am looking too hard.  last year someone asked me how i connected with my creative spirit, and i wrote to her  "I unfocus.  I let go but I pay attention.  I open myself to whatever comes.  I recently found a Krishnamurti quote that describes this process perfectly:  In the cultivation of the mind, our emphasis should not be on concentration, but on attention.  Concentration is a process of forcing the mind to narrow down to a point, whereas attention is without frontiers.   Within that borderless place live my words and pictures and ideas and truths.   If I am tired or totally rested, it comes easier; I am less judgmental, less caring."

i read that, those words i wrote to her, and i see a map.  once again.  still.  

the word that found me 3 years ago, that traveled with me for 2010, was navigate.  i look back and see i am still navigating, writing about personal journeys, the path of life, about drawing my own roads, about navigating by st. exupery's stars.   about resting when tired.   i see it is a word that never left me.  if a word can be your soul mate, this would be mine.  i am an explorer of the small moments in our lives, and i say our because our lives are much the same - you may live where it snows for christmas, your skin may be a different color, you may be half my age.  none of those differences matter.  we all have small moments that are the truths of our lives.  even within life's big experiences, it is the small moments we remember and pay attention to.  your mother dies, and you don't remember death, you remember holding her hand that last time.  you remember her last breath.  you fall in love, and you remember that first kiss.  you get sick, and you remember the books you read while your body healed, and the rain outside your window.  you remember laughing at the grocery lists you  wrote for someone else, lists as secretive as your mother's.

this year my map has kept me close to home, exploring a place i thought i knew.  seeing another spring, another summer.  that makes me no less an explorer.  
each summer is different than the last, each christmas is new, the leaves that drop each autumn different than last year's fallen leaves.  the wind blowing outside my door at this very moment has never been here before.

i forgot that.  i was looking too hard.  i drew borders and built fences and thought because i could still see the stars, i was paying attention.


“…it was even more disconcerting to examine your charts before a proposed flight only to find that in many cases the bulk of the terrain over which you had to fly was bluntly marked: ‘UNSURVEYED.’ 
― Beryl Markham



  1. oh my. how i love that list. and how i love this post. i just spent the day at my parents having a birthday party for our 87-year-old friend. it was a day filled with small moments, and you are so right, it is all about the paying attention. and that sounds like it should be easy, but it isn't... it might be the hardest thing of all.
    i love the way you navigate your way through these words.

  2. Oh, how I love long lost lists! They tell us so much about a time, a place and a person.
    Navigate is a word for eternity. x

  3. I adore this piece... from the list to your search for words. Plus! You quoted Beryl! I adore her and, as a "White African" myself, her words have always held so much truth for me.

  4. this is absolutely priceless writing, emmatree, and i will keep it close. my reverb for this year was 'stretch', and had i had the ability to see the year unfold before hand (thankfully not), i may have chosen differently.
    'stretching' sometimes is pulling ones self so thin as if to break. it was my intent to stretch in a positive way. i did not. but then perhaps even stetched to the almost breaking point is good too. we learn from everything. perhaps i too, was looking too hard.
    your mothers list makes my heart smile...
    your words ALWAYS make my heart smile!
    in my fondest, tilda

  5. I have no words.
    I have no word.
    I am just BEing this year.


come. sit under the emma tree & let's talk. i have cookies . . .