"Breach" pastel memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

“Breach” pastel memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

About a month ago now, it was raining and storming at the coast. The ocean had gone wild again, stripping the beach of sand and exposing bedrock. But before this time of storms, the ocean was calm, almost a mirror of the sky, unbroken save for where it hits the shore. The beach was wide and mostly flat and perfect for finding shells and agates. One morning, I found half a dozen perfectly intact empty truly tiny houses:

I found all these beauties within feet or inches of one another. It seemed as if the ocean had lifted a deserted colony up onto the wet sand for me as early spring treasure. Out beyond where the wave was breaking on the shore, the whales were traveling north. The dogs and I walked with them, or they with us. The first time I saw a spout that morning I burst into involuntary song, singing “thank you” you over and over. Apparently, I like to think, the whales heard and in some way felt the gratitude, because after I’d sing it, I’d see another spout, a bit of back. It felt like a conversation across a table instead of a message in a bottle across species, elements and great depths and differences in consciousness.

So I walked back to the steps feeling very rich indeed, sated with luck and wonder. I sat down on a rock at the bottom of our access steps and the dogs settled in on either side of me. We often do this before climbing the stairs after a long walk. The day was slightly overcast and the slow breaking of the calm ocean against the sand was soothing. I was happy to have seen so much whale activity, even little bits, because sighting them on their great migration north signals the true arrival of Spring. The other evidence of Spring on the beach was also abundant–the appearance of thousands of tiny jelly fish called Valella. They are windborne, and when the wind is just right they all get washed up onto the beach in April. They are strange and beautiful and exotic looking when still wet, and as they dry up they begin to stink. The smell of drying valella is also the smell of Spring here at the coast.

"Valella in Wet Sand and Sun," pastel memory sketch, by Maria Theresa Maggi

“Valella in Wet Sand and Sun,” pastel memory sketch, by Maria Theresa Maggi

With such an embarrassment of riches, I certainly didn’t expect more. From my perch on the rock, I had watched a couple more whales head north, and was pretty content to just sit there. I was visiting with one of my neighbors who had just finished his walk when, for the first time, I saw a whale breach.

Not once, but three times. The magic number. It was easy to see.  The dulled light, the calm ocean, and then, all of a sudden the whale out there–rising up and then slamming itself back down in its own wave of white water.

I used to think it was highly improbable I’d see a whale breach, even it it was happening right in front of me.  My eyes are slow to track and focus on what others seem to see very quickly. I’m relieved that somewhere in me I still attempt to court what I fear might be impossible. Sometimes that takes the form of a kind of parallel play: I take on entertaining something within the sphere of my daily life that seems impossible, and that effort, even the willingness to entertain it, I tell myself, may help add energy to those changes out in the larger world that seem so necessary and yet nearly impossible to achieve. I reason that such energy accumulates and creates momentum for more good and wondrous things to actually become possible.

I try this even while telling myself whatever it is seems ridiculous and might not ever work. Or sometimes I try this spontaneously, without thinking at all.  That makes me laugh at myself. And laughter, by its very nature, throws possibility wide open.

Maria (moonwatcher)




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)


A Straight Flush: The Sequel

March 9, 2018

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 […]

Read the full article →

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 […]

Read the full article →

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 […]

Read the full article →


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 […]

Read the full article →

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 […]

Read the full article →

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 […]

Read the full article →

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 […]

Read the full article →

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, […]

Read the full article →