Turtle Island

Yes, I have been missing in action. I’ve been engaged in another activity. I’ve been coloring. Designs that I made years ago, and even a few new ones. It’s a very long story, but the activity is one I enjoy and brings a huge assortment of added benefits. There are those who would simply dismiss it as no more than “child’s play”. But, children play for a reason other than just the fun of it. Playing puts them inside the process of learning. For instance, sometimes they play house. In doing so, they try on the roles of the adults around them and may find that some of those roles are fun, perhaps have much deeper meanings, or even allow them to consider the fact that they might not want to grow up at all.

When we, as adults, choose to engage in similar activities, we are also putting ourselves in the way of a learning process. Perhaps no more than learning what works or doesn’t. Actually, when I started this design, I simply wanted to see how many different shades of blue I could put on the page, and how they might or might not work together. I have acquired, over the years, a rather huge coloring box, of different types of coloring pens. From simple Sharpies, to real brush water color pens, as well as a few odd ones simply because they interested me in the moment.

The great part of such an activity is that it can swiftly become what is defined as “active meditation”. The hands are busy in repetitive action, and the mind is free to roam through its storage chest of memories and what those memories can bring forward all these years later. And that is exactly what happened here and how this particular black and white design turned into Turtle Island.

Somewhere, in the midst of all those different blues, I remembered my closest friend from High School. She was an incredible artist, while I remained no more than a dabbler. She and her large family were of Native American descent. Members of the Oneida Nation, which has land just west of the city where we lived and went to school. We were both a tad bit on the rebellious side, and yes, we did get into a bit of trouble now and then. My parents thought she might be a bad influence on me, while her family had similar thoughts about my person.

We together did lead a sort of rebellion (my idea) at the High School. We gathered the very best of the female Art students and demanded that we be allowed to take Drafting, a “boys only” class. We got what we wanted and she and I ended up in the class together. The other girls were separated and were kept singular in each class hour. Not nice, but the school was, I think, trying to teach us something. It didn’t work.

But Mary and I drifted apart after school. I got married and moved to a city three hours away. Had four kids and started divorce proceedings because my husband was an abusive alcoholic. And I applied and was accepted at the four year University in our neighbor city.

I loved college. Although I was almost forty when I entered, I thrived in that environment. It was where I realized that I wanted to write. I had lots of encouragement from instructors and fellow students. At one point, I asked a Philosophy Instructor if I could do an independent study with him and write about how myths and legends affect the structure of communities and nations. He gave me cart blanche, simply told me I could do anything I chose.

I had already declared a major in History. And I decided to combine a History assignment and the Philosophy study. I was doing an American History class at the time and thought it might be interesting to look into some Native American myths. Came back to my home city for a week and called out to the Oneida Nations Museum to see if I could get some information. And was absolutely amazed that the woman who answered the phone was my old friend Mary.

We set up a time and got together at the museum. She helped me gather a few books, but then recited the Native American Creation Myth and how the North American continent came to be called Turtle Island. She also explained how the Oneida Indians received their tract of land for their support of the Colonials in the Revolutionary War. All of that came back to me as I was coloring the above image. An incredibly rich store of memories, but also a reminder that when I choose my own path, things seem to come together in ways no one could or would ever imagine.

And that still remains true. I’m thirty-five years older now, but I needed that reminder. And I love that it came while I was playing with the color blue.

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Rebirth 7

You’re in my heart, you’re in my soul
You’ll be my breath should I grow old
You are my lover, you’re my best friend
You’re in my soul

This is an old song and perhaps not as well known as the others I have used to introduce this series of essays. Further more, I couldn’t find a video that would transfer here to this site easily. Although I am not a particular fan of Rod Stewart, the performer of the song that hit the number one spot for a brief moment, I would be remiss not to include it amidst all these words and music about rebirth. Rebirth comes in all kinds of disguises, shapes, and on many different levels. This one, for me, was one of the most important ones I have experienced because it altered my sense of everything around me and that of my own person.

While I was still in college, I met and made friends with a much younger student. That particular story is far too long to go into here, so I’ll just say that she was an abuse victim, and I became her protector. By that time, I was well established on campus and was a volunteer advocate at the newly established Women’s Center there. She was almost half my age, but taught me so much about genuine love and healing.

We both enjoyed taking long lazy drives through the country side, and at some point, she introduced me to the hawks that populate this region. I was immediately enamored and started reading up about them. I was astounded that I had missed this year round resident and simply knew nothing about them. Our drives after that were always in search of the hawks and other wild life.

It was almost an entire year later, and I was alone that day. Had driven out in the countryside, just to find some down time. I parked the car in a turn about off the road and was just sitting there listening to music playing softly on the radio. By then, my new friend had bought me a pair of binoculars and I reached out and picked them up, just to see what I could see. As I slowly scanned the further region around me, I spotted a lone hawk perched on the higher tiers of a utility tower. I zoomed in on her and was shocked to see that she was staring straight back at me. That was impossible. She had to be almost a quarter of a mile from where I was sitting in my car. And yet, she seemed completely aware of me, almost leaning toward me from where she was perched.

That’s when I became aware of the music, softly playing from the radio. As the chorus of the song came on, I swear she began to bob to the sound of the song, never taking her eyes off of me, the entire time. I knew the song and started singing the words: “You’re in my heart, you’re in my soul. You’ll be my breath should I grow old. You are my lover, you’re my best friend. You’re in my soul.”

I had been doing some research on Native American culture for a paper I had to write for a History class. Somewhere, in all of that reading, I had come across the concept of a spirit animal, that might attach itself to a particular individual to be a guide and teacher. It was always the animal who did the choosing. And although that thought crossed my mind, I immediately dismissed it, only thinking that was far too preposterous and presumptive to be true, after all, who the hell was I to even think of such a reality?

I drove home slowly, and never mentioned the episode to anyone. Yet, it seemed that wherever I went, the hawks would appear, in the air, sitting in tree branches, or utility poles alongside the highway. Sometime later, a good friend gave me a set of cards, created by Jamie Sams, and entitled “The Medicine Cards.” There was a group of people gathered around, perhaps for my birthday. I opened the deck and shuffled them thoroughly, finally picking one single card. I flipped the card over and it was The Hawk. Everyone started laughing because they were familiar with my affinity for that bird. It was the deck that helped me understand because the message of the hawk is to “Always remember who you truly are.”

My young friend eventually left my home and created her own life. We remain in contact on Messenger. At one point, she sent me this photo that she took in her backyard. It very much mirrors the image I saw through my binoculars all those years ago.

I have written about the hawks many times. This is one of the first of those poems:

In The Way of The Hawk

Remember the first time
I realized I might never again
feel the weight of a man
resting against me. Loss,
sharp and heavy rising
from belly to chest, expanding
until ribs might crack.

On occasion, that thought
still surfaces, swims to shore
leaving light footprints
on sandy beach as they move
inland, where

a hawk drops from her perch
and earth reaches to swallow.
She unfolds her wings,
unwinds the wind, becomes one
with air that surrounds her.

Slow rhythmic circles of lazy
pleasure celebrate fact
that she can:

Fly alone.

Hawk would laugh at absurdity
of words I used to fear,
until she appeared to imprint
her pattern across my years.

She is.
I am.

“This,” she would tell me,
“is all that matters.”

And this one which was written years later to a prompt that asked us to take full sentences of prose and turn them into a poem:


And last, but not least, is this piece of mythopoesis:


As I said at the beginning of this essay, rebirth comes in all kinds of ways, and with different meanings. But it always begins with sitting down alone and getting to know the one individual we really need to know. My message is the same as that of the hawk:  “Always remember who you truly are.”

Elizabeth Crawford 8/25/2020

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Rebirth 6


This piece of music is one of my all time favorites, so it belongs here amidst all of these words and music about rebirth. But, you might ask, what does being “Comfortably Numb” have to do with rebirth? And I would have to respond, “Everything.”

Granted, the song is about using drugs to obtain that numbing reality, but drugs are only one avenue to obtain that affect. As human beings, we are only one of the multitudes of creatures that inhabit this planet. But, like all those other creatures, our bodies are made to be receptacles of incoming information that allow us to move through our days and to survive into the next one. Our very skin is made up of sensors that telegraph information to us about our surrounding environment so that we can remain safe within that environment. It tells us when the weather changes and alerts us to what and how to respond in any given moment.

Have you ever felt a prickle of fear flash down your spine, or down your arms in the form of goose bumps? That prickle of skin is meant to warn you that you might be in danger. Whether or not you heed it is entirely up to you. It is always your choice. And some among us are always more sensitive than others. Their radar is simply more finely tuned. If you like to read, try Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear.

As I said above, this piece of music is a particular favorite of mine. On my thirtieth birthday, I bought myself a guitar and took lessons. I did learn to chord and strum, but the guitar solos in this piece are so far and away from what I could produce, they couldn’t even begin to be put in the same category. It just means that I probably appreciate them more than some others.

But the words here are even more important. And I am definitely a word person. These are the words of someone seeking to numb themselves to their own environment in order to somehow survive that very experience. And yes, that little pin prick will accomplish that but how much more harm will it do? It is far more apt to end that life altogether than to enrich it.

We all have learned ways to numb our-self from different aspects of the life inside and outside of our beings. Food, alcohol, buying and spending, and the list goes on and on.
But that numbness can cost us a great deal in relationships and other areas of our lives. It might be distracting for a time, but it can cost a whole lot more than we think. If we become too numb, we may lose our ability to emphasize with others, even those closest to us. We might even lose our ability to connect at all, on any meaningful level.

More important, we may lose the ability to connect with our own person. That individual that it is most important for each of us to know and accept. Most often in childhood we are taught how to make our-self acceptable to others so that we can belong and be a part of whatever society exists around us. But then we grow up and realize that we are an individual with thoughts and feelings that don’t always align with those others around us. Does that make us unacceptable? To others, or to ourselves?

We all have memories unique to our own experiences. Those memories are important in helping us to choose what type of individual we would prefer to be. They can and do help us to make choices that satisfy our individual preferences. Some of us must win at whatever the cost or situation, while others are surprised if they ever win at all. And unless we actually do the work of exploring those memories and their effect on the whole picture, we may never learn how to be other than simple raw material that has not been given either shape or dimension.

I, personally, would prefer to be a unique, even a colorful individual, rather than a blob without any identifiable definition. That is not to say that everyone around me will accept the individual I am. Some never will. And for a few, my chosen individuality will threaten them. That is their problem, not mine. However, because I spent a great deal of time and effort studying human behavior, the better to understand my own, many individuals don’t realize that they often telegraph their silent inner intentions in sometimes very obvious ways.

The first time I encountered such behavior was half a lifetime ago, when I was in college. Another student decided I was her only competition to the position she felt she alone deserved. So she decided to set me up to take a tremendous fall from grace. It backfired on her and she was ultimately called before the faculty of the department where both of us were seeking majors. She was told, in no uncertain terms, that if she didn’t stop her behavior, she would never graduate and would have difficulty finding another university to accept her. This all took place without my knowledge and I didn’t know about it for several months after it had happened.

But, I learned a great deal from that experience. 1. That I could actually be a threat to anyone just by being me. 2. That success wasn’t always a wonderful and glowing experience. 3. That if I stuck to my own sense of what was best for me, the Universe would and does lend a hand in seeing to it that the appropriate outcome would happen, because the Universe operates on a sense of balance. And 4. That it is best not to get too comfortably numb at any time.

In the song, the singer says that when he was young, he had a dream. But now the child is grown and the dream is gone, because he has become “comfortably numb”. Taking the necessary steps to fulfill a dream is damned hard work. And in far more familiar terms, “If you snooze, you loose.” But that is never an excuse for harmful behavior towards others. When we do it wrong, we need to admit that wrong and even apologize for our own bad behavior. If we don’t, we harm ourselves as well as the other.

I am currently watching reruns of NCIS. The lead character is named Leroy Jethro Gibbs, and he has a list of rules that he uses to teach his other investigators. One of those rules has always bothered me. It goes something like this: “Never say you are sorry, it’s a sign of weakness.” I don’t agree. I much prefer to believe that a sincere apology is a sign of growth and strength. It also engenders healing for both parties involved. And it might actually lead to healing the breach that has occurred. But, even if it doesn’t, I believe it allows the two individuals to walk away stronger for the experience, no longer numbed, but more fully aware. And that is always a good thing.

The pandemic and social distancing has altered our lives in so many ways. However, it is not an excuse for bad behavior. Rather, it should be a time for quiet contemplation and a further growth process. Taking this time for a closer look at how we have become the individuals we are is perhaps the very best use of our current experience. Allowing ourselves to explore what and how we have become the who that we are is never a waste of time or energy. As a writer, I would sincerely encourage anyone who is reading this to take a break each day and write down what is bothering you most and what you might do to alleviate that reality in a positive manner, giving yourself a chance for even a small sense of rebirth. Give yourself the information you need to survive and even thrive in the midst of an unknown reality.

My other suggestion is to explore any creative activity. Several years ago, I engaged in line weave drawing. I filled several small sketchbooks with just such images. They were done in pen and ink and one does not need any particular artistic talent to do them.

I then tried putting them through a kaleidoscope app and had a lot of fun making them into full sized templates I could color.

Each step in that process kept my mind alert and active. Free to roam through memories and further ideas. Far away from numbness of any kind. I was playing, having fun, but also being very productive. I have a large number of these templates and am more than willing to share them if anyone is interested. Just contact me here in the comments section, or on Facebook messenger.

When one gets involved in any creative activity, even the simple activity of coloring, that individual is strengthening the mind, keeping it alert and active, but also allowing the body to relax and find comfort. The very opposite of “Comfortably Numb.”

It certainly can’t harm you and it is far better than becoming so “Comfortably Numb” that you stop breathing altogether.

Elizabeth Crawford 8/19/2020

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Rebirth 5


I don’t talk to angels. However I have been known to speak with dragons. And although they are very different creatures, they hold one thing in common: very powerful wings. Which means that like all winged creatures they are a symbol of spiritual messengers because they inhabit the realm between heaven and earth, carrying messages between those two very different locations.

I have written about the dragons many times. Have even been interviewed about them and my association with them. If you are curious, just type the word “dragon” in the search engine on this site or on my Soul’s Music site: https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/

You can read that interview here: https://poetryblogroll.blogspot.com/2017/08/blog-of-week-elizabeth-and-her-dragons.html#comment-form. Personally, I found the comments after the interview far more interesting than the interview itself. It was intriguing to realize how many individuals were curious about the subject matter.

However, that is not the topic I wish to discuss today. I have been talking to dragons for many years. I have come to believe they are the outcome of my own strange story. I was raised in a strict Catholic family and attended Parochial school for seven years. I heard a great deal about “guardian” angels. And, if I’m honest, wasn’t much interested in them. Figured that because of my messed up mind, I probably didn’t warrant one. Or, if one actually had been offered the job, he or she, probably left in haste after a few months of trying to “fix” me, to no avail.

That sort of changed in my early thirties when I tried to put on a practice of quiet meditation. It didn’t turn out to be quiet. I began to have spontaneous imagery encounters with wild creatures, beginning with a huge tiger who told me that his name was Pain. That story may be found here on this site and is listed under the title of “A Tiger Named Pain.” A few years later, I discovered that I had created a Personal Mythology. Whew!

But, it was still years later, after being involved in a Grammy Nomination that I began to teach and also began to have encounters with dragons. I really preferred them to the idea of guardian angels. Only realizing, much later, that the dragons were another form of the same.

While teaching, I did mention the dragons. And was asked, on occasion, if I could introduce certain individuals to their own dragons. I did that. And it was surprising to see the sheer exhilaration on their faces when they simply closed their eyes and were confronted by their dragon. I would immediately tell them to ask for the dragon’s name. Names are a form of definition.

Which brings me to my current topic. Last week, while searching through old files, I had an encounter with a very different dragon. Not different in appearance, although he was one of the most beautiful of his kind to appear to me. I followed my own rule, asking him for a name, and that’s when I got rocked back on my heels. He told me he couldn’t tell me his name, because he belonged to another individual. That shocked me. I have never had a dragon come to me that belonged to someone else. Actually, I didn’t think it was possible.

But, then he began to change, growing smaller and shabbier by the moment. But maintaining direct eye contact with me the entire time. He was shaking and appeared to be afraid. I have never encountered a dragon filled with fear. And I didn’t fully understand what he was there to tell me. He raised so many questions and left me with absolutely no answers. I was on my own as far as trying to figure it out.

I knew the individual because the dragon mentioned him by name. Two different avenues of thought had resulted. Was I in danger somehow, or was he? I did make an attempt to talk to the man, but he blew me off.

So, I’m here trying to write it all out and see if I can’t find some kind of solution. I haven’t, and may never do that. I simply have to accept that reality. But, that in itself is difficult, to say the least.

For me, writing has always been therapy. Writing and music. They go hand in hand. The song that opens this essay came to mind when all of this current experience happened. It is a definite favorite and has been for years because it reminds me of a certain chapter in my own story that has yet to be completed. It denotes a sense of rebirth. A new way of thinking and being in this present moment. We must accept that sometimes the answers simply might not come and find a way to continue without them. Find a path that doesn’t do harm to ourselves and others.

The pandemic and social distancing has created just such an experience for most, if not all of us. We have so few answers and the future is simply one big question mark. Do we lose ourselves in this new world without any real answers? We don’t have to. We can choose to simply learn how to live inside the moment instead of running away from it. Like the song says, “Don’t be afraid. Close your eyes.” Breathe in and out gently. “Lay it all down.” Then give yourself a treat and find a sunrise full of hope and new inspiration, right there inside of you. Stand still and let it reach out and surround you with its warmth and comfort.

Who knows? You might even see a dragon in that new light. If you do, tell him or her that Elizabeth says “Hi, and welcome.”

Elizabeth Crawford 8/10/2020



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Rebirth 4

This song has been playing hide and seek with me for over a week. Bits of memory flashing inside my head. But never quite enough to actually help me to identify the song. Like a female student, more my age, who would ask me to sing it for her. I could remember the student, her name, where she lived, what she did for a living, but couldn’t quite remember the song, or the words. I knew it was a female singer, but couldn’t remember her name.

Could remember singing it with my daughters in the car, driving home from somewhere, and having a quite interesting conversation about the meaning of the song, but not the song itself. And because I’ve been using different songs to introduce these essays, I figured this was the next one in the line up. But, I had to remember the song in order for that to take place. And the only thing I could remember was that it wasn’t necessarily a happy song, packed with emotions and lots of questioning. It took a while, but I finally remembered that it was in a movie about Angels. That’s when it all fell into place.

This song always reminded me of those caricatures of a human figure with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. And always in competition with one another, while the poor human creature, caught between them, was in danger of severe whip lash. Both have a need to be satisfied, but who makes that choice? Do we seek a new path, or try all the old ones from the past? Even though they didn’t usually work.

Some say that division is the one between the head and the heart. What we think, versus what we feel. And it is up to the individual to make that choice. Sometimes that division is between the past and what we’ve been told we are, and the current moment, the now in which we exist and the person it is possible for us to be. All a bit confusing isn’t it?

What would you say if I told you that the angel, and the devil are you and how you make your choices? While children, growing up, we are told about the world and how it works. We are told, to some extent, our place in that world, and many times, how we will succeed or fail in that world. If told often enough that we are not meant to succeed, why even try?

I have been writing here, about our need to sit still, to open a conversation with our own person. We need to know the influences that shaped us, that formed our own attitude about the person we are. It is simple but also one of the most difficult things to do. We argue that we don’t have time, are far too busy, so many obligations to be fulfilled. But then I must ask, what can ever be more important than getting to know the one person you need to know?

After my last essay, I wrote down (in a comment) that my two most often used self-definitions are 1. Hermit, and 2. North Wisconsin Hillbilly. They are the angel and the devil that ride my shoulders. Can you figure out which is which? Good luck with that.

Over time, I have come to know that each of them is both an angel and a devil. We have been taught that an angel is good, and a devil is bad. But, I have discovered that I need both to find completion. How can that be, you might ask? It has to do with the way the brain works. One side of the brain is reserved for Logic and Language. The other side of the brain works on association. In other words, when the angel steps forward holding her standard high and sparkling in the sunshine, it is the devil who steps forward and shows her that her action could make a mess. He does that by simply asking the right question. And, more importantly, when the devil suggests an action that would be harmful to myself or others, it is the angel that steps forward with her standard to remind me that some things might feel good but could also be very destructive.

And if you are curious, like me, I learned all of that by getting two degrees: one in History, and the other in English with a writing concentration. History, by its very definition is story. But it needs both Language and Logic to tell the story so that it makes sense and offers examples of both good and bad behavior. And both are reliant on metaphor and simile to make themselves understood.

In the song, “And it’s hard at the end of the day.”
“Need some distraction,
Beautiful release”…

What is the distraction? Is it helpful, healthy, or just a means of numbing all those tangled up thoughts and feelings that weigh us down? Some might turn to drugs because they work, if only in the short run. Or is there a different path we can choose? An activity that will soothe all those jangling, wrangling nerve endings and might lead us on a path that is far more healthy and even relevant?

I keep coming back to the same answer. Creativity. Even taking the time to put a jigsaw puzzle together is a creative activity. Taking all the separate pieces and putting them all together brings about that sense of completion and satisfaction when the picture slowly comes together and is completed. It also awakens and demands the use of both hemispheres of the brain to do it. Logic tells you that all of the pieces are needed to complete the work, while association is necessary to be able to find each of the needed pieces and where it belongs in the larger scheme. Just like a battery, the human mind needs both the negative and positive charge for any current to flow.

So, I’m right back here at the beginning, telling you to just sit still and breathe softly and gently. At some point some part of the brain will ask the question: “Why are we just sitting here, breathing? Don’t you have better things to do, all that stuff that needs to get done?”

And your response might sound something like this, “Well, we are doing this because Elizabeth says it is the best way to begin.”

And who the hell is Elizabeth and what does she have to do with all the other things you should be doing and aren’t?

Although it might be interesting to hear your response to that question, I’d much rather give you a couple of my own. Because I’ve gotten rather good at this business of sitting still and breathing, I’ve even used it to create some rather interesting pieces of where they might go.

The first one is titled “Self-Talk Matters II” and can be found here:https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/self-talk-matters-ii/

The second one is a talk I had with my dragon: https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/dialogue-with-my-dragon/

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Rebirth 3

So, how does an individual like myself, with such a poor self-image, even begin to think of becoming a writer, no less? I didn’t just wake up one morning and make that decision. There were a lot of steps involved and some mountains to climb. Have I mentioned that I have a terrible fear of heights? I’m not joking.

Although the title of this song seems to speak of that issue (writing or not writing), it isn’t about writing. It is about getting to know and perhaps finally learning about the only person we really need to know: our self. If we don’t know who and what we are all about, how can we possibly know others? Yes, we can know their names, occupations, maybe a few of their likes and dislikes, but do we really know that singular human being and who they really are? And how do we get to know them? We sit down and talk with them. By asking questions, we begin to hear their story. It’s uniqueness. How much more important is it, that we do the same with our own story and all of its experiences?

Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells us in her book, Women Who Run With The Wolves, that nothing is ever lost from the human psyche. Nothing. That means that every moment of our existence is stored somewhere inside of us, inside the skin of our being. And I believe it. One of the things I know that happens when I write, is that memories pop up, unexpectedly, and unbidden. Sometimes from out of nowhere. And seldom do they come with explanations as to why they are occurring.

There is a zone within any creative activity when the hands are busy with the physical movements and part of the brain is open for associative activity. One of the major reasons that people involve themselves in creative activities is because the creative action brings about a certain mellowness, if you will. Not exactly a high, but rather a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. The words on this page wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t chosen to write them in just this way. And that’s a good feeling. But there’s also a downside to the process. If you, the reader don’t find value or meaning in these words, that can be a real downer.

Estes also tells us that our story is the best medicine we have, possess, to offer the world around us. But, we are the only individual that can create that particular story. And no, it doesn’t have to be written down. That helps, but it isn’t essential to the process. That is the real point of the song. It calls us to “open up that dirty window”, the one that is smeared with the dust of time and all those other memories. Each of us has had a lifetime of moments, but if we never stop long enough to examine those moments and how those experiences played out and what meaning, or lack there of, they played in the shaping of whom we have become in this present moment, how can we offer that singular medicine to the world around us? And, perhaps more importantly, how do we find out if that medicine can actually help anyone, if we never attempt to take it ourselves?

I’m going to give you an example from my own experience. I was invited to come to a dinner my younger sister was having for their closest couple friends. I was the only single individual at the table. Somewhere in the middle of all the chatting and clatter of silverware, one of the men looked at me and asked what I did for a living. I told him I was retired on disability and spent most of my time on my computer.

One of the women, frowning, said that her friend’s son was constantly playing on his computer and the friend couldn’t seem to get his attention for any other purpose. Everyone was nodding in negative agreement. So, I said, “I don’t play games online, I facilitate four blogs. I’m a writer.”

One of the other men asked me, “What do you write?”

“Mostly poetry, but I also write prose. Occasionally, I do personal essays.” I responded.

“Have you ever actually been published anywhere?”

“Yes, I have. In both small and large presses. One of my poems was accepted and used as the anchor piece for an anthology that was then turned into a set of tape cassettes. My poem anchored the set of tapes and the set was nominated for a Grammy Award, in the Spoken Word Category.”

The original gentleman, shook his head and said, “Poetry for a Grammy Nomination? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

The other man looked straight at me and asked, “So, what do you get paid for all this so-called writing that you do?”

“I don’t get paid for it. I do it because I really enjoy writing.”

He promptly turned to my brother-in-law and said, “So, Tom, what did you think of that Packer game last weekend?”

End of discussion and no one directed any more conversation toward my person. I quietly left after dinner and was never invited to join the group after that. And I must say, these are not bad people. Their priorities are simply different from my own. I have wondered on occasion, since then, if I had also told them that because of the enthusiastic publicity about the Grammy Nomination, I was invited to teach credit classes at the University from which I graduated and made $40 an hour for that employment, if the outcome would have been different. But, have to admit that the men at that table would have been far more threatened by a woman making that kind of money than the idea that I wrote poetry.

Because of our current reality, we are all being asked to sit still, to be alone with our own person. To take this time to possibly learn from our own experiences, to understand our own story, and to begin the healing process that can and might entail. Are we only the amount of money we possess? And if we are more than that, how does that change our story and whatever we have to offer the world around us?

At the moment, our world is looking very broken. I am doing what I know how to do. What are you doing?

Elizabeth Crawford 5/5/2020

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Rebirth 2

This song is a good example of rebirth. I have lived long enough to remember the original version and still retain all of the words. As a matter of fact, it brings back a wonderful memory. We were sitting in the huge crowded cafeteria of the University at lunch time. This was a mixture of people, traditional and non-trad, students, teachers, office personal, ranging in age from 18 to mid-forties and beyond. Two of the women were speaking about music, particularly the songs of our youth. One woman, a good friend who knew I sang, looked at me and said, “Yes, like the Sound of Silence”, and grinning, she said, “I’ll bet you know that one, Elizabeth.”

Grinning back at her, accepting the challenge, it was my intent to only sing the first and opening line. But, the young woman sitting next to me, and half my age, immediately jumped in to sing harmony. So, we sang the song all the way through, and that huge bustling room, went absolutely silent and listened. As the room slowly resumed it’s clatter and noise level of conversation and lunch consumption, my friend, the instigator said, ” I have never been in this room when it went so still and silent.”

And that was the day I knew that I was right where I belonged, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, and that it was perfectly okay to just be me. A rebirth, if you will. Before that experience, I had always questioned myself, especially my own thoughts and subsequent actions. Had never really thought that I belonged, let alone, was acceptable.

When I was four years old, I slipped beneath the back wheel of my father’s reversing huge black Pontiac. My head swelled up and there were bloody scrape marks on the opposite side of my face. Mom and Dad took me to the doctor’s office. The doctor checked me over and asked if I’d thrown up. I hadn’t, so he released me. But, as we were leaving the office, I threw up all over the waiting room. And I was immediately taken to the hospital.

Once there, x-rays were taken, and it became clear that a piece of shattered skull bone was protruding into my brain and creating a blood clot. Emergency surgery was scheduled. My parents were told that I had only a fifty percent chance of survival and that if I did survive, I would probably have some brain damage, akin to Cerebral Palsy.

Those dire predictions haunted my life through the rest of my childhood and sometimes still interfere even to this day. You see, although the doctor gave me a complete and clean bill of health, even called me his little ‘Miracle Girl’, my behavior was forever under a microscope from that day forward. Although I did my fair share of “acting out”, unlike my siblings who were most often chastised in private, my “mistakes” were discussed at the dinner table. “Why can’t you be more like the others?” “Why would you say such a thing?” These were familiar phrases to me and became an internal mantra, constantly echoing through my own thoughts.

My entire family had gone through a life-threatening trauma. However, back then, it was not seen as essential that all of us might have needed some help. Especially me. My family didn’t understand that I’d spent almost an entire month, away from home, among perfect strangers who were very different from me and what I had come to know as normal. And some of those differences rubbed off. I saw and heard things differently. And still do.

And again, this was a type of Rebirth experience for me. One marked by a large and ugly scar that arced my left ear. All my hair had been shaved off. The doctor suggested that I wear a football type helmet, to protect my head during the slow recovery process. My Mother wouldn’t consider such a thing. She found other things to cover my head, but I hated all of them and to this day, don’t much wear any type of head covering.

The ‘Sound of Silence’ written by Paul Simon, was an iconic folk protest. And in that tradition, the words them-selves, were far more important than the music behind them.  The newer version is quite different, although the words remain the same. It is grittier than that original version, to the point of being angry. And it exemplifies many of the changes we, as individuals, are seeing and experiencing.

We are not trained to be alone. Instead, we are taught, from young on, to make ourselves acceptable, to belong, to fit in, to be cogs in the machinery of what we call society. Yes, on occasion, a few of us might rise to some sort of prominence, even to what might be claimed to be adulation, but only a few and that position is ever changing. And those that do, very often are surprised at how quickly they become “Yesterday’s News”.

That all changed with the Pandemic and subsequent lock-down. Everything about our lives has been altered and we are suddenly alone with only the sound of silence for company. And we are threatened by that sound. The majority of us simply don’t know how to be alone with ourselves.

I thought I’d be okay. I’ve lived alone for many years, have even defined myself as a Hermit. But, that was a choice I made. Now, I’m told that I have to, must be this way. No choice in the matter, that’s just the way it is, for my safety, as well as others. Added to that, I find myself newly defined as a member of the most fragile and vulnerable among us. And the sound of silence has become the enemy, once again.

I used to be terrified of silence. It meant I was alone, with only my own person to rely on. And my own history told me that wasn’t a good thing. I was not an individual I could trust. Certainly not someone I could count to watch my back, or be there for me when I most needed her. And yet, I had come to trust her. It was a long slow process and the University had played a huge role in that change.

You see, I was 37 years old when I entered the University, and to me, it all seemed like some sort of fluke. I had gone to the Tech College, in town, to take a test that would perhaps tell me what I might be best able to study in my efforts to make myself employable. But the tests results only confused me even more. I was told that I would only be bored at the Tech College and that I needed to apply to the four year University in our sister city. And when I say that my path there was greased, I mean just that. All I had to do was show up for an appointment, and by the end of that afternoon, I was registered to attend my first semester there, with the promise of a grant that would pay my tuition and the cost of my books, and would see me through how ever long it might take to finish.

It would take me seven years to do that. That sounds like a long time, but statistically I fit right into the amount of time it usually takes a non-traditional student with other obligations (like family, job, and kids), to do the same thing. And, it was there that I found the real Elizabeth, I had only secretly hoped I could be.  That one with a mind that worked well and even made sense to others. It was there that this North Wisconsin Hillbilly would graduate with two degrees and high honors in both. Perhaps, most importantly, it was there that I began to write poetry of all things, and began to learn that the sound of silence is not an enemy. But, a friend that allows us to explore those pieces and parts of ourselves that we may have lost in the bustle of being acceptable, of belonging, and of being afraid of being alone with only our own thoughts and feelings as our only companion.

The sound of silence can create a real sense of threat. It might lead to anxiety and eventually to fear and anger. Anger is a product of the human psyche. It is a natural adrenaline rush, a flow of energy that allows the individual to stand and fight, or run like hell.  But that rush of energy might also be used to think through whatever action might be engaged in. There are only two choices in how we use that energy: constructively or destructively.

We are seeing a great deal of anger and rage on the news, and even on social media. And most of what we are seeing is destructive in nature. Dismissively calling someone an “asshole” certainly fails to invite them into conversation that could at least open the doors to a further exchange. It only invites retaliation in kind and worse. It has already become death.

The sound of silence shouldn’t be an enemy. It should be a friend, inviting us in to sit quietly, to breathe softly and deeply. To finally hear the sound of our own soul speaking to us, of what it knows about the journey toward wholeness. And how to heal what has definitely been broken. If we do not heed that invitation, I believe we are setting a course toward complete destruction. Not just in the present moment, but for all potential moments to come.

Elizabeth Crawford 6/1/2020

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Rebirth I


This song haunted me for weeks, day in and day out, about six months ago. I pasted it here so I could easily listen to it, whenever I wanted to do so. I have no idea how many times I did just that. Music has been a very important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Since very early childhood, if I heard a song that I liked, I could sing it, pitch perfect after listening to it two or three times. I had what might be called ‘an ear’ for it.

This song bothered me, because I both liked and didn’t like it. I liked it’s simplicity and the imagery within the words. Stark, but clear. Waiting for the sun to rise, to end the darkness is a universal that everyone can understand. The urge to dream of the sweeter things is, yet again, another universal concept easily understood. And the tiredness of living day to day, hoping for and yet, seeing few if any changes.

But, then comes the second verse. Simply a repeat of the first one. That sort of hit me sideways. No expansion on the original lines, just a repeat. I wanted more and was, at first disappointed. Because the music also changed, expanded and became a sort of surreal cacophony that was almost jarring. Edgy, if you will. So, I just sat with the song, let it take me wherever it would and finally realized why it was haunting me. Because it is about life itself and how so many of us human creatures actually experience that phenomenon.

Early in April, I turned 74. It was a silent sort of shock, to my whole system. When I turned 70, I wrote one sentence that day. “I don’t know how to be 70.” Now, here I am at 74 and I still don’t know how to be this number of years. I mean, that means I am an old person. A really old person. Someone who is living and breathing on The Edge of The Dark. And yes, my eyes are tired, as is most of the rest of what might be defined as my system.

And yet, over the past few days, I have realized that I have a deep desire to write about something I consider very important. I want to write about ‘rebirth’. My writing has always been personal. In other words, stemming from my own personal experiences. Just the thought of rebirth, at my age, sends my thoughts screaming into that darkness, never to be seen again.

Yet, here I am, trying to do just that. To be honest, I am making no promises for ordered thought, let alone coherency. So we shall begin at the beginning. What the heck is rebirth? What does it mean? Is it even possible? If it is, how does one go about doing such a thing? And more important, perhaps, why would one seek to do that?

I can only tell you of my own experiences. I was twenty-seven years old, married with two children. I’d been reading a book that a friend had given me and I found myself doing something I hadn’t done in years. I prayed. And when I stopped, my insides sort of lit up and I felt joy for the first time. It felt like Spring, Sunshine, and bubbles all rolled into one and now dancing through my entire system. All I could do was laugh out loud and hug myself.

The next morning, not having spoken about what had happened to anyone, and in the spur of the moment, my husband, two kids, and myself got in the car to take a ride West to visit my sister, who had recently moved to a different and unknown town. As we drove away from home, I reached out and turned on the radio. It was John Denver with these words: “He was born in the summer of his twenty-seventh year, going home to a place he’d never been before. He’d left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again, you might say he’d found the key to every door.”

That was my first experience with synchronicity, as well as my first lesson concerning Joy and Rebirth. My second lesson was far from the same. In Native American cultures there is a shamanic ritual known as the cycle of “Life/Death/Rebirth”. In it, the initiate must dig his own grave, lie down in it (the covering having been closed off by a blanket), and wait through three days and nights, of total darkness to be given a vision that would explain his purpose.  That almost sounds easy in comparison.

It was more than ten years later. We were living in a farm house, out in the county. Now there were four children, two in their teens, two almost ten years younger. Having been raised in a strict Catholic family, I was struggling with the concept of divorce. My husband had finally admitted to being an alcoholic, had sought rehabilitation, but his need to control me and every aspect of our lives hadn’t been diminished. I had been in our bedroom, with the door closed, trying to find a way through our current situation. I finally roused myself enough to leave the bedroom and walk as far as the dining room where I sat in a chair with my back against the wall.

Only to realize that my husband, in only his skivvies, was sitting in the rocking chair next to the fireplace, haranguing all four of our children who had been ordered to sit on the floor in front of him. All four of them were crying. Obviously in a state of cold rage, the man was shaking his finger and pointing at them, as he said, “No one, not one of you will move, until at least one of you agrees with me, and says out loud,  that your mother has never been here for you, has never really loved you, because she is utterly selfish and incapable of loving anyone.”

I had put the divorce on hold. I had filed, after he came home drunk at two in the morning and beaten the shit out of me, and six cops had arrived (called by my son), to escort him out of the house. One of those police officer’s had remained behind and while sitting across from me, had very calmly and quietly asked me a question: “Do you know that no one, not your father, husband, son, or a friend has the right to do this to you?” I clearly heard and understood his question, perhaps for the first time in my life.

My husband had taken himself to a rehab center, where he’d stayed for a two month period. He’d started attending AA meetings and would go to them regularly. I had given almost twenty years to the marriage and decided that I at least owed all of us the opportunity to see if this incredible change might work. He did stay sober, but his cold rage toward my person never left.

It would take many more years to fully understand that rage, but eventually I did come to realize that it had very little to do with me. It was a carry over from his childhood and something he’d never worked through, and more than likely never would. As I sat in that chair and heard his words to our children, my decision was obvious. I stood up and clearly stated, “I’m done now.” Then left the room and took the divorce off hold.

Which meant that I was something new. Born again as a single woman, mother of four children, a second year college student with a long journey in front of me alone. What I’m trying to say here is that ‘rebirth’ comes in all kinds of ways. Yes, it can be spiritual, like my first one, but it can also happen on other levels, psychological, physical, mental, or emotional. And just like an unborn child, finally ready to arrive, we are swept up by timing and circumstances beyond our control and shoved into a whole new world and state of being.

Which brings me to why I feel a need to write about rebirth. The Pandemic and its restrictions, have drastically altered our lives in so many ways, and on so many different levels. What are you feeling in this moment? Does it mirror the you that you were before it all began? Are you experiencing wide mood swings, or just one that is darker with angry inner or outer bursts of desires that have little or nothing to do with who you were when it all began? Are you constantly exhausted and for no real reason? Do you even have a Normal to go back to, should it end next week, month, or year? And last question, for now, what would Normal look like now and how would it make you feel?

This is only the first of what I foresee as a series of essays concerning the subject of Rebirth. If you’d like to respond to this first article, the comment section below is there for just that purpose.

Elizabeth Crawford 5/25/2020


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Personal Writing 3

Love your crossover piece, Elizabeth! I feel like I write quite a few of those. I think it’s okay for poetry to change. I’ve never been a fan of rhyming poems or acrostic poetry. I don’t care to write epic poems or lyrical poetry. I’m not sure any of “my poetry” is actually poetry. But why not move forward with the genre? I think it’s okay to leave the formal, stilted writing behind us. It belongs back when life was more stately and dignified.

This is a comment that was left on a poem I created and posted on my poetry blog. In my comments after the poem, I had confessed that it was more what I call a ‘crossover’ piece, meaning a mixture, or combination of both poetry and prose. The comment had me laughing at first, because I have often wondered the same thing about whether or not my poetry was ever actually poetry.

That response might sound strange coming from an individual who has been awarded, on more than one occasion, for her skill at writing poetry. A skill, I might add, that will probably remain an utter mystery to this woman who continues to practice it. Because practice is the most important word in all of this. Personal writing is only a practice we engage in. Another attempt we make to get to know that individual we refer to as I, and me.

Take a closer look at that last sentence. Notice anything important? There’s a huge difference between that I, and the me. One is always done in an upper case letter, while the other is lower case. Why is that? Why don’t they share equal standing? And I am sure that somewhere back in our History, there is probably a simple and profoundly logical reason for that difference, but still? When is I, I, and me, just me? And why am I asking such a silly question in the first place? Because we are here to hopefully discuss Personal Writing. The one place where I and me share the same space, perhaps even become equals, or even friends.

There are at least four different versions of the I and me that people, including myself, can possibly know. 1. That individual they have come to know indirectly. Whether that is through my writing, or the perceptions of others. And both of those may be profoundly different. 2. The individual that others have come to know by actually meeting me. Their perceptions might be quite different from that first category. 3. By reputation alone. Perceptions that have proceeded me, before I’ve been met. And again, those can cover a wide gamut. Then there is the Me that only I know, that one that knows my inner thoughts and feelings. Good or bad, she most often doesn’t begin to compare with those other three, at least that has been my own experience.

So how does one get to know that person who lives inside that beating heart, who looks out of those eyes and sees the world colored by her own past experiences, and the words, true or not, that others choose to speak. What has affected her that has caused her to become the unique individual she is in the process of becoming, and will continue to become until that final breath?

The only way, I know of, is to sit down and talk with her on a regular basis. Not just now and then, but daily, because each day brings new experiences that might alter her in both large and small ways.

Take, for instance, the writer of the above comment. Would she fully understand if I told her that even though I’ve been writing poetry for over thirty years, I really don’t know if what I am writing is even poetry. That although I studied creative writing for several years, earned a degree in it, with high honors, and taught it for more years than that, I still don’t know and probably never will.

What I do know is that personal writing helped me to climb that ladder and assisted me every step of the way. That personal writing helped me find and know both the I and me of my being. It was my place to practice, to actually clarify what and how I was saying my truth, and if it made any sense at all. It became a record of my existence and helped me grow into whatever I am becoming. To make the choices that have become the I and me that exist in this present moment.

One final question, and yes this may be used as fuel for your own personal writing: What is most important to you and what have you done or are you doing to see that reality to fruition?

Stop for a moment. Really listen to those voices that respond to that question. There are really, at least two, and they probably aren’t in full agreement. Why is that? And if there are more than two? Where are they coming from? You, and only you can know the answer to those questions. If you are not doing anything to see that most important thing to reality than don’t you have to ask why? How long has it been, since you even considered doing something about it? Is the mountain too high for you to climb, or the valley too deeply draped in shadows? Do heights make you dizzy or do shadows fill you with dread and freeze your ability to move at all? Have you decided, somewhere along the way, that it is all no more than foolishness so why even consider it?

And yes, I am asking myself these same questions. And no, I’m not real happy with the answers. But knowing that is a first step which will take me to a second one, and maybe even to a third, or more. Which means I am actually moving. Not standing still or staring off into space wondering how I got here and why.

Elizabeth Crawford 5/18/2020

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Personal Writing 2

This is only a suggestion that might help you find some things to write about. Sit down with paper and pen and make a list of beginnings, or firsts. One sentence for each and no more. This is only a list that is meant to encourage you to write more. Here are some suggestions:

first kiss
first day at school (any age)
first look at a night sky filled with stars
first friend
first child
first impulse to create
first time you realized that you might not know what you thought you knew
first favorite color
first car
first time voting
first time in a boat
first river
first encounter ?

This list might take several pages, or less than one. But it will suggest others. That’s up to you. Our story is the best medicine we own that can be shared with the world around us. But, the most important person who needs to hear it is you. Writing about any one of the firsts we have encountered in life, is like reaching out to clasp hands with a stranger.

Yes, a stranger. One who only lives in memory and memory is a very fleeting thing. We might remember an image of a thing, and experience, but until we examine it more closely, put it into words of thought and feelings, it simply remains a blurred photo with little or no meaning.

Take, for instance, that first kiss. Mine was rather exceptional because of the surroundings and what occurred after it. I was thirteen, and he was the same age but attended a public school, while I was in my final year of Catholic grade school. He had a friend with him, who seldom spoke, most often just standing by observing and listening. It was early evening and we were standing outside the back entrance to my home. The screen door was open, but the light wasn’t lit. So whatever was within couldn’t be seen in that darkness. We had been walking around the backyard, talking, and he’d taken my hand and was holding it. He moved in a bit closer, his eyes on mine, and mine on his. He bent and softly pressed his lips to mine. It was probably the most chaste kiss I would ever experience, but I was both scared and excited. As he drew back and away, my father’s voice came from within that darkened entrance way. “It’s time to come in now.”

We scattered, the two boys taking off in one direction, and me scrambling to get inside the house. There was no one in the entrance way. My Dad had calmly dropped his statement and turned away to move quietly into our living space. And he never mentioned what had happened. But, the memory still exists clear and well defined because of those startling circumstances. I wrote it down years later. It makes me laugh in a sort of shaken and embarrassed manner. That most often turns into outright laughter. Because that wasn’t the end of that ‘first’ experience.

You see, the boy and his friend came back the next evening. He seemed a bit fidgety, and spoke of several things. Then went quiet, looked over at his silent friend, and asked me if I’d teach his friend how to do the thing we’d done the evening before. I went stock still and a thousand things: words, questions, mine and other’s, all jammed into one small space, all at the same time. I don’t know if the shock walked across my face. I was just too stunned by his request. He’d gone on speaking, something about how his friend had never kissed a girl and really wanted to learn how to do it. And all I could do was stand there and stare at him. I had thought that he genuinely liked me.

He wasn’t the first boy who wanted me to be his girlfriend. The year before, the best looking boy in the graduating eighth grade class had singled me (a seventh-grader) out and we’d spent most of the past summer, when I wasn’t babysitting or doing chores, swinging on our front porch swing, swimming at the public pool, or just walking around the neighborhood together, holding hands, or with his arm slung around my shoulder. He’d never kissed me. Had gone off to the seminary the following autumn to study about becoming a priest. And I had wondered if that was why there had never been a first kiss.

But now had to wonder if I’d just been some sort of experiment. This current boy had given me a ring to wear on a chain around my neck. And all I could do was stare at him, my mind in total confusion about what any or all of this was really all about. I couldn’t speak, just stood staring at him and then shook my head “No”, turning and walking away. He asked me for the ring a few days later. Apparently his mostly silent friend meant far more to him. And kissing might now be whatever I thought it was.

Writing it all out brought back a lot more memories. Things that surprised me when I did so many years later. The following year, I attended the same junior high school as he did. For all intents and purposes, he acted as if he didn’t know me, never said “Hi”, in passing, or acknowledged me in any way. That was okay, as I was dealing with the major change and disorientation that came from going through seven years of Catholic grade school, to public school.

I did take part in the yearly Talent Show that year, singing a solo of a popular song at the time. The song was well received and I got a lot of applause from the audience. Wasn’t aware that he was there in that audience with a whole group of friends, both male and female. Had, however, become aware that he was definitely one of the most popular males on that campus, sought after by most of the most popular girls. A few days after the Show, one of those girls approached me to tell me how surprised she was when she heard me sing. When she said I had a great voice, I thanked her and went to turn away, but she continued, “You surprised all of us and should be aware that you obviously caught the attention of several of the guys we were sitting with. Especially CM. He just sat still and didn’t move at all, didn’t speak, just stared at you, up on stage singing. He was sort off in a whole different world. You might want to know that he might be interested in you.” I wasn’t.

A few months later, I was talking to another girl and she was curious about my Catholic school background, saying how tough she thought it must be with all the nuns making sure you didn’t mess around with boys, all the rules, and that sort of thing. I just laughed and told her that hadn’t stopped any of us from seeking and actually having boyfriends. She seemed genuinely surprised that we might actually rebel at such restrictions and asked me about my own experiences. I told her about the possible priest and then dropped the name of the other boy. Her eyes got big and she said, “You went steady with him?” I nodded as I got my books together for my next class. She was obviously not only shocked, but thoroughly curious. I rose to my feet when the bell rang, looked at her and said, “Yes, for about a month and the only thing I’d tell any girl who might be interested in him, is not to let him kiss her.” Then turned and walked away, laughing inside.

So that’s my story about my first kiss and it proves that I am only human. There’s more, of course, but that might be better for another time and a different list. As I said at the beginning, the list is simply a starting point. A place of ideas, as well as beginnings. But, if you want to know why it is so important to write these things down I will give you a clue. When you write them down, you are making notes. And when you do that, you are making your experience “noteworthy”. You are also enhancing your own memory, and making your story far more real, and interesting,  to that stranger you may have become, and the ones you have still to meet.

Until next time,
Elizabeth 5/12/2020

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