The fallow to the harrow/Let me cry

I’ve used this face before. It is the careworn defiance face, a self-portrait of the wife of the patient, taken mid-December 2011.  Mark and I had been through hell, and we were so tired.
widow daves
If we’d known how few rivers we had left to cross, if we’d understood that we only three months left to us, would we have [fill in the blank]? 

Answer: I miss my husband. I miss him so terribly.  His absence is palpable now, at this writing.

Let me cry. If I am crying today, it means that I am walking with my loss. Tears come, then words come. I am empty, then emptied, dark to lightened, lost to fallow.

Grief. A harrowing experience.

Let me cry. It is a gift, to feel, to be able to touch this loss, and know it as mine. It’s proof of the enormity of Love, how blessed I have been. It’s what remains, the sense-memory of the old normal, what cancer doesn’t own/can’t touch.kissing

Let me cry. It is relief, this sorrow, and reaching it is a hard-won victory. When the wave finally comes in, reaches the shore, washes my feet, my legs, I sink to the sand, feeling the pull, and there I make contact with the great All, and I am finally a whole human being again, head and heart engaged.

In these moments, I have him. My husband lives in those moments. Let me cry.

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Pocket Lent: ashes

church crop


This is the truth.

Everything is not going to be okay.  Some things will be okay. Some things will not.

How will you love yourself, in the meantime, that’s what matters.

That’s the lesson.




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[Update 2/10/2016: Ellie Oben passed away yesterday. At her request, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a college fund for her 6-year-old son: Ellie’s Legacy: Jalen]
ellie's heartA week ago, my friend and teacher Ellie, who’s been battling breast cancer for some years now, let her friends know that she was laying down the fight, and taking back her life.

On Facebook, Ellie wrote:

“My last request for all of you is to enjoy every single second of your life because you have no idea when your last moment is. Be happy! Live life to the fullest! Be kind and give back to the world. Resolve tensions and challenges with others. Be powerful in your own skin.”

Since that message, a grand, world-wide love fest has been popping up on her Facebook page, words and photos. And at her home base in California, Ellie was guest of honor at the celebration of her life, very much present, smiling and laughing, mugging for the camera.

This morning, with that same elegant power and self-determination, and so much love for this world, Ellie left us one more message. Today, she entered the final stages of hospice, and doesn’t expect to live long past this day, if at all. Her words were purposeful and direct, like someone going on a journey, not a woman in her 30’s being torn from this life.

Even though we are over a thousand miles from each other, and even though I have always been much more her student than her friend, I feel her with me now.

“Resolve tensions and challenges with others. Be powerful in your own skin.”

Thank you, Ellie. Godspeed, brilliant light. I see your spirit, your joy, and I believe it will last forever.
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52 Ways to Be Like Mark

January 27, 2016

On this, the 52nd anniversary of the birth of Mark Allen Daves, we present fifty-two ways to celebrate the man. (Friends & family, feel free to add your own)

  1. Stop at 7-11 on the way to work for a “Supa Big Gup” and a chocolate chip cookie
  2. Say this at work: “Measure twice, cut once.”
  3. Say this at work: “Hey! Less jawin’, more sawin’.”
  4. Say this at work: “Everything’s a hammer, ‘cept a chisel. That’s a screwdriver.”
  5. Eat a hunk of dry New York cheesecake, and wash it down with cold Perrier
  6. Eat BBQ and drink a cold beer
  7. Eat your mom’s beef stew
  8. Eat your mom’s yellow cake with fudge icing
  9. Make shepherd’s pie and eat it
  10. Bake incredible bread, and share it with people who’ll fuss over it
  11. Stick your butt out like an old man, shuffle your feet, and dance ’til somebody laughs
  12. Let your loved one catch you looking at them like she/he is the only soul on the planet
  13. Tell the “lemon drop cookie” joke (This version lacks Mark’s seasoned touches, but click here)
  14. Call your Mama Honey
  15. Call your Daddy-O
  16. Call your best friend and when he picks up, say “Hey, fucker” so he knows it’s you.
  17. Listen to “Jesus Christ Superstar” (Original Broadway Cast) and sing every word
  18. Listen to “Chicago” (Original Broadway Cast) and sing every word
  19. Listen to Robert Earl Keen, and sing every single word of “Jesse With the Long Hair”
  20. Listen to Bruce Springsteen
  21. Listen to Paul Simon
  22. Listen to Jimmie Buffet
  23. Listen to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “This Old Shirt” and cry, every time
  24. Listen to the Kingston Trio, and sing “Scotch & Soda” to someone you love
  25. Read some Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  26. Read some John Steinbeck
  27. Read some Mary Roach
  28. Read Shelby Foote’s Civil War histories
  29. Read slow as molasses, and recall almost every single word
  30. Cry because sometimes you can’t believe how beautiful this world is
  31. Tell the pirate joke (Click here)
  32. Fix the sink/the door/the chair/the mower, no matter how tired you are after work
  33. Help your neighbor, no matter how tired you are after work
  34. Make yourself stop for a minute to listen to your kid(s), no matter how tired you are after work
  35. Do someone a solid favor, and don’t tell a soul
  36. Come up with the perfect MacGyver solution to a problem, and tell everyone
  37. Load 78 feet of scenery into a 26-foot truck
  38. Fart like the maestro of smell that you are
  39. Watch “The Shining” even though it scares the hell out of you. Every time.
  40. Watch “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and laugh ‘til you’re on the floor
  41. Watch “Cool Hand Luke” and recite the dialogue
  42. Watch “A Tribute to Chuck Jones” and sing along with Elmer Fudd, “Oh, Bwunhilda…”
  43. Watch “Antiques Roadshow” and cooking shows
  44. Watch back-to-back episodes of “How It’s Made” ‘til your family threatens to toss you and the TV out in yard
  45. Fall asleep in the big chair
  46. Before you go to sleep at night, get out your mini-flashlight, a needle, and a pair of tweezers (Carpenters will get this)
  47. Give up on the Cowboys, again
  48. Drive with the windows down
  49. Gaze into your lover’s eyes until you both feel the world tilt right again
  50. Roll around in bed a little bit longer
  51. Buy yourself that book/that album/that shirt/that whatever, and for God’s sake, don’t feel guilty about it for one minute
  52. Know that all things are finite, and show your people that you love them, every chance you get, and hold on tight

mark wedding day smug

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Mark’s chicken with herbed dumplings

Mark & Caleb at the Walkers 2011

Caleb & Mark, Christmas 2011

I love giving Mark’s favorite recipes as gifts. This was one of his best.  It’s here, almost exactly as he wrote it down. He would sometimes substitute leftover chicken (or turkey) instead of preparing it as below. Best post-holiday meal ever.  The man could cook.

Mark’s Chicken with Herbed Dumplings

Mark made these wonderful, savory dumplings an old cast iron #10 chicken fryer passed down from my grandmother.


2lbs boneless white meat chicken
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 T olive oil
3 T butter
½ white onion
4 oz can mushrooms
1 shallot
¼ cup flour
3 cups chicken stock
¾ cups heavy cream (whipping cream)
¼ cup dry sherry
4 medium carrots cut into ½” slices
2 stalks celery cut into ½” slices
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp ground or fresh nutmeg
1 tsp finely chopped oregano leaves
1 tsp finely chopped thyme leaves



1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
2½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
7 T cold butter
3 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup milk
½ tsp kosher salt

Turn oven to 425°

Cut chicken into 1” strips and season with salt and pepper. Put 1Tbl oil in deep skillet and fry up the chicken in 3 batches. Add 1 more tablespoon of oil for every batch. Brown both sides and set aside.

In the same skillet, add the butter, then add onions, shallot, and mushrooms and cook until the onions are soft. Stir in flour. Add chicken stock, cream and sherry and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add carrots, celery, bay leaf, oregano & thyme. Season to taste and cook for 5 min. Add the chicken back in and then cook for 5 more min.

Dumplings – wisk together dry ingredients. Cut in chilled butter until everything is pea-sized clumps. Mix in rosemary then add milk. Mixture will be sticky and clumpy.

Take a large spoon and plop the dumplings on top of the chicken mixture [in skillet]. The clumps will cover the whole pan.

Cook in the oven 20-25 minutes until the dumplings are golden brown.


The red recipe book contains most of our favorite recipes, and most of them are recorded in Mark’s handwriting.  If my house ever catches fire, if a tornado’s ever headed my way, if extra-terrestrials invade north Texas, my kids, my dogs, and this book will be going wherever I go.


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White Rock Gospels 5:20


We all stopped to watch
as it tuned up
this sunset
this luxurious unveiling
this moving picture of
color six miles past description

at the lake
on the lake
in the lake

Some of us even                                                                    Some things
put down our phones                                                           Escape capture

Walking through the
fantastic shifting backdrop
reds orange gold pink
turquoise purple green
I lingered til near dark
then set out only to be drawn back
three times
a willing victim
of death by color

And the thought crept in that
if I can’t live by the lake
I am free to visit
And if I am
as the song that’s been sighing in my head
through with love
and all its sweet terrible imperfection
at least I am drinking it in here
in the deep reds
tangled up passion and fear
And no matter how
it ended up
I made my lover smile

Alone is not fatal

I am free
I am in those colors
swirling changing evolving becoming

All I have to do now
is find me



WRL 5:20/12-13-15

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Getting to the point

20151105_173812At some point, you have to decide.

Because sometimes people die.

And sometimes people move on, loved ones move on.

Sometimes it’s just the natural migration of humankind, the diverging and merging of people in and through your life.

Sometimes, good friends step off the ride because your depression is depressing them. Or, they need to step away from your shit to make room for their shit.

Sometimes, people just leave.

Sometimes it happens smoothly, almost surgically. You almost don’t notice at first, and then when you do, it’s like

“Ah. Oh, well. Okay.”              20151028_215919

And sometimes, the leaving is like your chest has been opened up with a dull hatchet and now instead of a heart, you have a dirty bomb made of barbed wire and napalm that goes off with every-other breath.

At some point, you have to decide to live

Once you make that choice, however tenuously, however blindly, however many times you take it back and then have to remake that choice, and even if sometimes you think maybe you’re making that choice only because the people that you love are already going through hell and you don’t want to add to their pain, even then, once you decide to live, life begins.

You may not see it happening for a while, blinded as you are,  pain, rage and fear screaming in your face. At first, you will have to seek it out every single day. You will have to find your own way. It may be that the best you can do is hope for the sun to rise, and when it does, say to yourself, “See? Told you.”



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