It’s a lovely almost Spring day here today at the coast. The dogs and I spent some time out in front of our house. I pulled out dead crocosmia leaves and clipped alder shoots; they took a nap in the sun. After a while I joined them, sitting down on a log that marks the boundary of my driveway, and closed my eyes to let the sunshine enter my cells that way. I’ve read it’s immediate in that skin tissue. As I sat there with my eyes closed, all of us tuning in like impromptu buddhas in the sun.

It has been a morning of song for me. I woke up singing Carole King’s “Beautiful.” On the way down the street at the beginning of our walk, it was so pretty that I broke into “Oh What A Beautiful Morning,” from the musical Oklahoma!. The dogs like it when I sing, and they stayed in step well, Cotton out ahead a little,gently pulling us seniors along.

It is March 14, 2018. It’s my daughter-in-law’s birthday. It’s also National Walk Out day in schools all around the nation, as children from elementary age to high schoolers, protest gun violence and call for common sense gun law reform. This morning I listened to them singing a song called “Agents of Change” in New York City and tears filled my eyes in the best kind of way.

As I sat in the sun with my eyes closed, luxuriating in its warmth on my eyelids for even just a few moments, I thought of how Leo is the Sun’s sign, the sign of childhood, the opening of the heart and the courage to dramatize our most basic needs to be creative and to thrive. I wanted to sing a song for those children in honor of the sun that is shining its creative and revitalizing force down on all of them and their brave hearts this March day, a week before Spring Equinox and a month after Valentine’s Day, which will forever also be the anniversary of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas shootings, along with my own personal anniversaries of the diagnosis of MS, and the day I changed my diet 12 years later to help me fight it.

The old Carpenter’s song “Bless The Beasts and The Children” popped into my head, which at first seemed perfect, because it was a song for the dogs AND for our children. I was filled with a sudden desire to hear Karen Carpenter’s beautiful voice singing the song. I thought to myself when I go in I’m going to find it on the internet.

The sun went behind a cloud. I brushed all the sticks and leaves out of the dog’s tails and we headed inside. But I wasn’t ready for the emotion that would hit me when I finally pulled the song up and listened.

The song begins, “Bless the Beasts and the Children, for in this world they have no voice, they have no choice.”

Right away I was aware we are living in an extraordinary time beyond this truism, where children are claiming their voices—about gun violence, about climate change, about their right to a safe and healthy world—in ways that force choices that are long overdue.

The lyrics go on to opine:

“Bless the beasts and the children, for the world can never be the world they see.”

This made me sad because this is what many adults would say—or used to say. And yet if we don’t support their vision for a better world we are all doomed. Perhaps, now, finally things are going to change—I believe in that future, and their vision of the world as the one I want to live in.

The bridge of the song is what really got me, given the times we are living in, and the fight for their lives these children have taken up where we have so far failed to win the day:

“Light their way when the darkness surrounds them. Give them love, let it shine all around them.”

My voice broke. I couldn’t sing along anymore. Tears welled up.

The last verse is the one that’s repeated and most widely remembered:

“Bless the beasts and the children, give them shelter from the storm—keep them safe—keep them warm.”

As a culture we are not doing this. I cried out loud about that. In the anti-war movement of the 60’s I remember slogans like “war is not healthy for children and other living things.” We believed in protecting them. We didn’t expect them to stand up to protect themselves. And now here we are, in this extraordinary place, where children are leading our way.

So I sang along as loud as I could, sending my hope and my support for them out into the almost Spring day, along with my belief they will prevail. It’s time to re-feel and rethink absolutely everything.

Maria (moonwatcher)


"Toilet Innards," pastel sketch my Maria Theresa Maggi

“Toilet Innards,” pastel sketch my Maria Theresa Maggi

I am reporting in here to announce the jerry rigged toilet flapper has been replaced–by me. I want to thank everyone who commented on “A Straight Flush,” and encouraged me I could do it. There are two qualities that made my success possible: disobedience and patience.

First off, I had to make a decision to disobey the recommendations of the two plumbers and the plumbing supply sales person I talked to over the phone, all of whom insisted I remove the flapper currently in my toilet (which I now affectionately refer to as “Toity”) and bring it in to wherever I purchased a flapper in order to be sure to get the correct one. The guy at the plumbing supply place wouldn’t even look at a photo through e-mail. But after watching some “how to” videos on YouTube–by plumbers, no less–I realized that there are many universal models that seemed quite similar to the design of the one I had jerry-rigged.

Ordinarily I am a big fan of bringing the actual object I need replaced to the store with me. It’s often the only way I can explain what it is I need, since the vocabulary that hardware salespeople seem to want often eludes me, especially when there are sometimes dozens or even hundreds (as there are with screws) of alternatives. But this time that didn’t seem like the best thing to do, despite professional concensus. For one thing, the downstairs toilet would be out of operation completely until I returned. Getting a ride down the coast highway to make the purchase is an expenditure of energy in and of itself. What if by the time I got home my hands and eyes were too tired to replace the flapper? And besides, I would most assuredly need to pee the minute I walked back in the door.

There was another reason in my mind to be disobedient. In watching video after video about toilet flappers, I saw there were different versions of the kind I needed. I saw there was one that was all one piece, made of rubber and it could be easily stretched around the pegs it sat on, not requiring me to push and snap. I liked the ease of that concept a lot. But if I took in the exact model, I would end up with a hard plastic attachment, which, even before I tried to take it off, I knew would be hard for me to do, despite how “simple” it basically is.

So on an afternoon when a neighbor took me down the highway so the dogs could get their booster shots and a few other things, we stopped at the hardware store to pick up a toilet flapper. We went to the smaller one I am more familiar with–low ceilings and less like a warehouse. That helped me focus a lot. At first the clerk who guided us back to the plumbing, like the plumbers and the guy at the plumbing supply, was quite skeptical I could find what I needed without showing him what I needed. I told him what type it was and what size. I think he was taken aback by what I knew.  He watched me somewhat incredulously as I compared the two universal ones he showed me, checking for the all-one-rubber-piece option. As my readers and youtube videos had said, they were all in the $5-7 dollar range. No big deal if it turned out to be wrong. I only fell into my Mrs. Magoo mode when i had too many things in my hands. But my neighbor was there to help, and the clerk ended up being quite impressed that I knew what I wanted and why.

Now to that second integral quality in my recipe for success: patience–with myself and with the process. I knew after the appointment with the dogs that I would be too tired to come home and immeiately replace the jerry-rigged one. But I also knew I didn’t have to do it right away. It was still working pretty well, although it sometimes required a little tease or coax to get the seal right. So I would have time to wait until I had that feeling I was ready to try and tackle getting the hard plastic arms to snap off the pegs that attach them to the infill.

About a week after I purchased it, the flapper was giving me some extra trouble. In exasperation I thought the moment had come before I was quite ready. But I was determined. I took the new one out of its package and set to work trying to get the old one off. I couldn’t do it.

This didn’t bother me as much as it could have. For one thing, I knew I was coming at this from a left-handed perspective. And because of the way my toilet is situated it’s hard to get on the left side of it. I also know that often when I try to loosen or tighten something simple for the first time, my nervous system often “misses,” and doesn’t get it. So instead of pressing the matter, I sealed the new one back up in plastic, and coaxed the old one back into working order.  And I waited.

I knew something was going to come to me about how to approach this more successfully, though I didn’t know what that something was. A day or so later, it came to me: if I took the big abalone shell with soap in it off the edge of the bath tub that’s right next to the toilet and moved a few other things, I could actually sit right there and look at things from a left-handed point of view. So I waited a little more to be ready to do that. First I moved everything so the way would be clear when that perfect moment came.

When it did come, sitting there staring at it did allow me to see better how it had been hooked onto the peg and how it might snap off. But I still couldn’t get it off the first try. So I stopped and looked again, and then I felt it again, feeling for that place it might lift up and snap off. And I felt it. And off it came.

The rest was pretty easy. As I had intuited, the all rubber replacement was a breeze to put on. It’s working like a charm.

These two qualities, disobedience and patience, serve me well in all areas of maintaining my health and choosing a path of action that is right for me. I’m just happy I was able to see clearly enough how to apply them in this situation.

As fun as it was to draw my “toity” inside and out, I would feel remiss if I didn’t combine the ridiculous with a little sublime. So here’s a memory sketch of what the ocean reflected a couple of days ago in the huge and ever changing sky, because it’s as important to look up and out as it is to peer down into the innards of a toilet tank.

"Three Skies on the Ocean,' pastel memory sketch, by Maria Theresa . Maggi

“Three Skies on the Ocean,’ pastel memory sketch, by Maria Theresa . Maggi

Maria (moonwatcher)




A Straight Flush

February 25, 2018

I fixed my toilet over the last few days–twice. The first time it became necessary was on a Thursday evening toward sunset. I pulled the handle down to flush–and nothing happened. I’ve lived in old houses with old toilets for most of my adult life.I even lived with one that had to be entirely replaced […]

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Ten Years and a Valentine’s Day Rutabaga

February 13, 2018

  Ten years ago at dinner time on Valentine’s Day I sat down to a special dinner I had created for myself of low-fat vegan fare. It was to be my first official day of eating this way, and i wanted it to be special and delicious. I wanted it to be a celebratory start […]

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January 29, 2018

Several days ago, I wrote this to myself, thinking I might put it on facebook, but I never did: “Oh. KAY. So. . . .it seems that last night I felt, in just a shudder or two, reverberations of the earthquake off Kodiac Island. I was drifting off to sleep again after using the bathroom […]

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Daybreak (and Pineapple Corn Bread)

January 9, 2018

  The night my son drove me back to the coast after our family trip for Christmas in southern Idaho, we drove straight into the wind and rain coming in from the ocean. The closer we got, the more it came down. Once again I was grateful for my son’s skill at driving on wet […]

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Loving The Blue Dot

December 20, 2017

Of late I’ve noticed a pattern in my memory sketches. They are increasingly focused on how small our man- made structures and objects look against the vastness of the sky and the ocean. And yet, as toy-like as they seem in the moments I’ve tried to capture them,  it’s the light from that vastness that […]

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A Little Night Magic

December 8, 2017

  My parents were sticklers for honoring the traditional 12 Days of Christmas, which hardly anyone seems to recognize anymore. The traditional 12 days of Christmas  are bookended by Christmas Eve,  the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. In between are days that have both pagan and Christian significance. In even earlier times the […]

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Finding Heart

November 10, 2017

More often than not, I am hard pressed to have my own imagination beat what happens in real life. This particular morning was an overcast drizzly one. The dogs and I hoofed it up a big hill and over to the community garden to dump kitchen compost and collect little leaves of kale and chard, […]

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A Few Words

November 3, 2017

For much of the last several weeks, the ocean had stolen the sand from the our beach access, leaving us only with rocks, practically right up to the bottom of our stairs. On calmer days at low tide, we could make our way over those rocks to sand farther north. Last Saturday morning, I was […]

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