Friday, 18 December 2015

The Bug

My first trip to Australia occurred in the middle of my second grade year. As the Aussie’s say, “year two.” Oz had everything to offer but a wizard. It was truly a wonderland to my seven-year-old self. To call the large, sloping backyard of my Aunt and Uncle’s home lush would be to make a massive understatement. The sound of a kookaburra’s cackle in the morning is a memory I recall with the utmost nostalgia. 

Australia was heaven for my curious little child-self. With wombats in Taronga Zoo, toilet water that spins in the opposite direction, and Carmello Koalas to satisfy my insatiable sweet tooth, there was no shortage of diverting experiences.

That is where I caught the bug. The travel bug, to be exact. Some people talk about traveling as something one must “get out of their system while they are young.” The people who say this are the one’s who have never been infected with the bug. If they had, they would know there’s no getting rid of it. It’s a chronic condition whose primary symptom is a desire to experience the world. This desire for me is as insatiable as my sweet tooth.

There is no cure, there is only treating the symptom. The treatment is obvious: keep traveling.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Missing Murphy

I’m lonely here, without you.

I like to picture you sitting next to me on the veranda of this little cafe. Laughing and sharing anecdotes of silly sweet things our men have said or done, reading our own books and interrupting the other to read aloud a particular bit we find funny or inspiring, sharing our food and sighing with delight at the delicious first sip of an Aussie latte (because they are the best there is)…

And then I blink and look around and the chairs next to me are empty and the voices I am hearing are only the gossip of the old, pearl-laden ladies at the table next to me.

This salad is lonely with only one fork in it.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Pink Flamingos

My earliest memory is of pink flamingos.

My memory at this age is more like a slide show on a 1980’s projector
than a running film. Short bursts of light-filled scenes indicating
activity and action, colors faded like my grandparent’s polaroid photo
albums. I can remember feeling confined by my stroller as we
traversed the San Diego zoo, choosing instead to toddle along beside
it. Blasted thing never moved fast enough anyways.

“Slow down, Gretchen,” Mama says.  I pretend not to hear. The pathway
before me is wide, inviting. Cast iron, scalloped railing
decoratively barricades me from joining the Alice in Wonderland
birds. Pretty in pink and knobby knees, I identify with them. Urging
my mother to look, I jab a little finger at them as if she didn’t
know in which direction to avert her gaze. I helped direct her
attention, just to be sure. Bouncing, giggling excitement bubbles out
of me. Nothing but complacency and a desire to preen comes from my
new, feathered friends.

Soon, I am tired. The day is long, flamingos fade, and I need a place to
lay my head. Stroller-prison isn’t an option. Daddy can’t carry me –
he is out to sea. Papa’s shoulder shall have to do. Yes, this suits
me just fine. Mama and my grandparents talk about when Daddy will
come home next. “Will you be here to meet him at the harbor?” She
asks them. I drift off. Mama snaps a picture.

So the beginning of my life ensues. In lace bonnets I play. Infinite
sea, infinite sand, waving palms cast dancing shadows on the beach.
Daddy home, and away again, and home again. I am splashed by whale
spouts and dolphin tails, giggling at the swift, shy anemones and
bumpy starfish. Here I dreamt and am dreaming still. Always missing,
never forgetting. Idealized nostalgia in which I lack nothing: Daddy,
mommy, Eric, and eternal sunshine.

Monday, 7 December 2015


I’ve decided to start sharing more on this blog. That is, I’ve decided to start writing more. Some of what will follow may be a snap shot from the memoir I am writing, or an excerpt from my “Morning Pages”. Such as:

I envy those people that pop out of bed in the wee hours and run through the mist, working up a sweat in the still, quiet moments when the rest of the city is shuffling to the kitchen in their pajamas, bleary eyed and yawning, fumbling for the coffee pot…

The point of this new decision of mine, to share more, is not about putting things out there that I think are publishing-worthy. No more over-analyzation of every blog post. It is about putting anything out there. Raw and uncut, as long as it’s writing and as long as it’s mine, I’m going to post it. Not to add more garbage to the world of blogs, but to show up, in vulnerability, as an invitation to my readers to join me on this journey of creativity and exploration. 

So, consider this your invitation. You are invited to comment on, critique, or congratulate anything that I’ve written and that I am going to write. Let’s write together.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


“How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.” ~Annie Dillard

Time. That inevitable, uncontrollable, damned necessity of a corner stone that leads to all manner of circumstances, painful and pleasant, and the ever-subsequent healing and growth that results from such experiences.

It is elusive at best. Something we stress over as the years pass, yet waste so much of on a daily basis. Time sets things in motion. Stress and aging for example. We are like a dog chasing it’s tail, and ignorant of our laments, time flies past us. It leaves us to bemoan what we have not accomplished; what we have not attained. The timer is set, and we are racing against it.

Why the focus on outer beauty? Why the pressure to obtain success as the world sees it? My question is this: What are you doing with your time today?

Spend your time with people you love, who love you in return. Love and community: The greatest investments of one’s time. 

After all, relationships and the memories created therein are the only things we take with us when our time is up.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


I laugh at the thought of anxiety. It feels so foreign, so far away. Here, there is peace. There is a lightness to the air we share.

We breathe easy.

What confidence there is, in resting in love. Love of self meets love of other, and we fall – deeper in our passion than we ever dreamed possible.

Such strength to be found in friendship. A wonder… a true wonder. A romantic relationship bound in compassion and understanding.

Heat comes, but only in small bursts that soon fizzle, anger easily forgotten; replaced quickly by the heat of passion that burns through the night and into the morning.

We have found our home. It is not confined to a street, a city, or even a country. We have found it in each other. It is a home filled with tenderness, with love. And laughter. Endless laughter.

It is light, fresh and free, like the air we breathe.

There is an age to it – a reverence there that captures us. A kind of ancient wisdom. It runs beneath the surface; a current deep and steady. It is the foundation of our home, this wisdom of love. 

Love. It conquers all. It is overcome by nothing. It’s strength is unmatched and ever-enduring. Always forgiving. Always hoping. Unconditional.

We shine in our resilience. We face obstacles without fear, invigorated by the challenges they present.

The peacefulness abides. We breathe easy – in our reality, in our home.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Thoughts from the shoreline

It is not hard to understand one’s fascination with the ocean, or with mountains, great ravines, or expansive meadows. These things are mesmerizing in their grandiosity, and we are drawn to them. Irregardless of culture, religion, background or worldview, we are fascinated, curious even, by those things that make us feel small. It is a strange irony indeed, that we spend so much time and energy wanting to feel grand ourselves. We desire a sense of importance, meaning and purpose; we want to feel big. It is not wrong. It simply is.

Yet we are overcome, in the most wonderful way, when we are faced with something so immense that we feel as if we are but a speck. Perhaps that feeling – that soul drenching feeling – can be likened to one’s mirror being replaced with window. A shift in perspective. There is a whole world to see, to be admired. We have forgotten, because we’ve spent too much time admiring ourselves, in a manner of speaking. That is, our focus has long since been zoomed in on the minute details of our lives, that we have failed to view the bigger picture that our small human life is a part of.

The irony continues, in that there is a certain kind of power in the relinquishing of our power to something greater than us. To realize that we are all in this grand, mysterious world together is to realize how precious life really is.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Good Enough

“You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.” - Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking

I question every submission on this blog before I post it, asking myself in some way or another: “Is this good enough?” Hoping in futility that if enough people notice, I will suddenly become “known”. I will be Gretchen, the Writer. I will be able to say “I am an artist”, and others will agree. I will be legitimized; validated.

The reason this is futile can be found in perfect summary in Amanda Palmer’s words, above. I am already an artist. I don’t have to be known, or good enough, or a viral phenomenon, for this to be true. For these are fantasies at best, and vain ones at that. Vanity is not my aim, nor is it my motivation. I do, however, desire to move people. I want them to connect to my words. Not because they are mine, but because I know the feeling, that beautiful feeling, of reading another person’s work and feeling the loneliness dissipate; as if your soul has found a friend, even if you should never meet. I want others to experience this feeling of connecting to something bigger than oneself. I want to be part of proliferating those experiences, so that they may pass on their own inspiration.

So I will continue to write, and I will encourage others to do the same. Choose your art. Stake your claim as an artist. Be it writing, music, visual arts, photography, design – Do it for the love of the craft. Do it for the love of connection. Do it for those people in the world, like myself, who are seeking to experience “something deep or unexpected.”

Sunday, 23 August 2015


I am happy. Contented. For the most part.

I am happy, but I feel like crying, for I am also sad. Mourning, slowly. It feels more like savoring; soaking up every moment.

It is an absolute refusal to take anyone – any moment – for granted.

Breathing. This is my focus while I wait, while I enjoy. I look around at the smiling faces. My family and friends carrying on joyously. Their lives continuing on, busy and full. Mine… Soon to change dramatically.

I see myself standing amongst them. I am still, and they are buzzing about me, a blur of color, light and sound.

Time passes. The sound fades, the colors soften, and they are gone. I am alone with the light. It is lonely here, where touch becomes memory, and laughter is but an echo.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.


Homeward Bound


Although I am sitting in a relatively quiet, air-conditioned cafe, my heart races. If I sit still enough, I can count the beats by the thump in my chest.

I feel the winds of change flowing in and through me. A transition has begun.

Letting go. Stepping forth. Savoring every aspect of the here and now, knowing I will be releasing it and grasping a new present in a new place.

There is a fear of loneliness that casts the sheerest shadow on the light of my excitement. My anticipation shines with vibrance nonetheless.

There is a gratitude for the beauty of my life that swells within me. A balloon in my chest. Full and weightless, I float. Hovering, I step away – step towards. The momentum carries me.


The momentum is swift, and sure. A steady stream of events and energy. Leaping over boulders as if pebbles, running toward the ocean, toward opportunity.

It is quiet. My heart beats louder with every inch gained. I am coming home.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Heart Beat

The cafe is quiet, air conditioned,
and my heart races.
I sit still,
and count the beats by the thump in my chest.

The energy of change flows through, and from, me.
A transition has begun.
Letting go.
Stepping forth.
Savoring every aspect of the “here & now”,
knowing I will be releasing it, and grasping
a new present in a new place.


Friday, 12 June 2015

These are my Little Girl dreams

To live to write and to write to live.

To travel.

To live in sunshine, a stone’s throw from the ocean.

To be a mother in a happy marriage.

To be fit and healthy; vibrant.

For stress to be a stranger to my home, to my heart.

To live paradoxically; independent and in community,

Passionately and consistently,

with adventure and stability -

Full of love, full of life.

These are my youngster hopes. My version of a princess’ tale. The wishes of a fresh heart. A glance into the window of my future. Call me naive, if you will. Call me anything you like. I will simply smile in reply. Someday you may make your way into a book of mine.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

A slice of NOLA

I am exceedingly happy. It’s the Bayou Boogaloo in New Orleans. My dear friend Brian is off to work and I am left to my wanderings. I followed the music here, to the Boogaloo. I begin by buying some slightly overpriced photography. A price I gladly pay to support a passionate, independent artist. I hope someday people will do the same for me.

With merchandise in tow I meander over to the Bayou’s edge to sit and people-watch in one of the best cities to do so. My bum is quite literally on the pavement as my skirt is not long enough to provide a barrier, but it is warm and I am in love. I am in love with the raw, real, moment-by-moment energy that radiates from every noun in this town.

Everything is positively saturated with color. The music, the people, the food. Nothing is monochromatic. Even the gamut of minor physical discomforts (more often than not related to the humidity) provide an edge to the bliss that make it altogether joyous.

I wander over to the stage where the Funky Dawgs Brass Band is warming up for their performance. I am impressed from the start. Alone, but not in the least lonely, I dance to my content.

There is all kinds of dancing happening around me, some of which is just shy of twerking. At first glance, this seems entirely inappropriate, but it is suddenly validated (to a certain extent) as one of the band members puts down his trumpet and begins to rap. Following close behind is a chorus which repeats: “Shake what yo mama gave you”.

My experience is punctuated by observing something that both touches and amuses me. I turn to see a woman with bilateral above the knee amputations dancing in her motorized scooter as if it is the last thing she will do. The sun seems to shine directly from her ebony cheeks as the curls of her fantastic weave bounce about her shoulders. Being toted along with her is her Shitzu, who sits in a wide-open carrying case where her feet would’ve been. His expression reads: This is just another day in New Orleans.

And it is.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Companion Exchange

I am in a mood. Not just today. It’s been a number of days that this mood of mine has been an unwelcome companion. I’ve blamed it on all kinds of things: work, fatigue, work, PMS, work, missing my Love across the ocean, work, etc. While there may be some truth to the above, they are only compounding factors. The truth is, I have not written in days. Nor have I exercised. The neglect of these two essentials in my life has produced a restlessness that is permeating me entire being from my exterior to my core. My very soul feels restless, as if I have left her somewhere and she cannot find her way home.

So I begin to write in an effort to find her again. As I write, the fog clears. Writing provides a path – a direct route – to where she is. We reconnect. Julia Cameron provides a perfect analogy, summing up this angst:

“Over the long term, writing is a lot like marathon running, and just as a runner suffers withdrawal when unable to run for a day or two, so too, does a working writer miss her writing work. A certain amount of writing, like a certain amount of miles, keeps the artistic athlete happy and fit. Without this regular regime, tensions build up. Irritability sets in. Life becomes somehow far less hospitable. A good writing day rights this again… It cheers them up. It energizes them. It gives them a sense of flow.”

My writing has seen me through death, divorce, depression, and despair. It has been there for all my joyful celebrations, travel, adventure, and love. My writing has never judged me (though I can hardly say the same about it), but it has challenged me. It has challenged me to be better than I allow myself to think I am. It has helped me work through confusion and fear, showing me the light in my darkest of moments, if only a pinpoint.

I look at my mood and realize I’ve been choosing the wrong companion. My writing, my true companion, has been here all along, patiently waiting for me to take notice, and engage.

Friday, 10 April 2015


Right now I am in Portland. I live in a studio apartment that looks eerily similar to my previous one bedroom apartment in Goose Hollow. It has one major downfall in that there is no direct light. Ever. However, it is cozy and quaint and I am comfortable here.

Yes, I am comfortable. I have a steady income at a fantastic NICU, I have a handful of the most wonderful friends, and the standard of living here is beyond reasonable. I have every need and convenience easily attainable at my fingertips. My knowledge of this city makes it nearly impossible for me to get lost. There is always some new restaurant, food cart, venue or event popping up to keep things interesting. The general scenery here is, well, generally beautiful. 

In spite of all this, I am ready to leave.

“Why?” Someone may ask. “Why leave what sounds like an idyllic situation?” I have a one-word answer for that:


I am ready to further my growth. I have expanded as far as I can in this lovely city of roses, but I am limited here in all my comfort and familiarity.

I am ready for the challenge of being in a strange place where I could easily get lost, where I may feel lonely at times, where I may be inconvenienced, where I am working, and living, and getting by in a place I do not know.

In other words, where there is adventure. My travels through Australia gave me a glimpse of who I am outside of my usual context. A journey of redefinition. This move – this expansion – will cast the mold that was created in the independence of my solo travels. It will show me a new and glorious facet of freedom. It will, in essence, bring me home.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015


“Can I really explain what it is like, to reside in that place? Not really. I can only write about it.” -Rick Bass

It’s a curious difference. The difference between explaining and writing. When I try to explain to someone what I experience in my mind, in my body, when I am writing, something odd happens. To put it simply, I become a dithering idiot. I stumble over my words like a babe’s first toddle, leaving them to doubt how it is that I could possible form a sentence on paper.

How do I tell them that there is vibrant electricity running through my body as my fingers tap away at the keyboard? Do I explain what is happening in my head? That I see an entire film production of characters interacting spontaneously, changing their minds from one action to the next, until they do something worth penning down? What would they say if I were to describe the characters as not only having minds of their own, but also slowly becoming my companions? Would they appreciate the energy that seeps from me as I attempt to tailor words into phrases, into sentences, into pages – into story? How do I explain this? Can I explain what it is like? I must agree with Bass. “Not really. I can only write about it.”

Monday, 9 February 2015

Mad Boston

I fear that the more I make my life about my art, and less about my work, that my art will eventually become just that - work. All work and no passion. I need frequent reminders of why I do what I do; why I write. These reminders come in all forms. Such as the casual observance of passersby.

When Jacques and I were sitting on Lani Kai beach on O'ahu, along came a woman carrying a large stick, her two dogs walking beside her. A large mutt of a dog, and an ever-so-energetic Boston Terrier. These three characters began to play. Our attention was drawn towards the Boston as he began to dig around the stick his owner had brought. Ferociously. Under the stick, next to the stick, and even in places nowhere near the stick at all. 

He dug and dug, in an absolute frenzy. He panted wildly, tongue curled up, cheeks drawn back in a manic grin as sand flew in all directions. He was turning in circles as he dug. The hole he created his pivot point, his spastic little body like a secondhand on a clock.

“Mad,” Jacques said, shaking his head. “Absolutely mad.”

“What is he digging for?” I wondered aloud. “He’s crazy!”

Then it hit me. He was crazy. Crazy in love with what he was doing in that moment. His digging wasn’t him looking for something. He wasn’t digging to get anywhere, or to accomplish any great feat. He dug simply for the love of digging.

What would the world be like, I wonder, if we were all like this mad Boston? Passionately pursuing things for no other reason other than the sheer joy of the pursuit?

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Story Time

Last Thursday I was welcomed home by my dear friend Brian and his fantastic and endearing girlfriend, Ashley. They greeted me with a warm bowl of seafood chowder, garlic bread, and a divinely crafted rum cocktail. We made a picnic table of the futon bed and began to fill the evening with reminiscing and recounting the tales from our first meeting in New Orleans, nearly three years ago. We were part of a band of lost souls who had all entered NOLA soon after some kind of crisis. We came looking for a life-changing experience, or at least an experience that was different than the one we’d just had, and we were not disappointed. Although each of us were in a bitter and difficult time of our lives that Spring, we recalled the memory of our week at the New Orleans India House Hostel with fondness and laughter.

So much laughter… “Hi! I’m Cuba Gooding Jr.!” became the tagline of our evening. Probably because that story took the longest to tell. Either me, Ashley, or Brian himself would interrupt him as he told the tale of meeting the actor, in order to insert another suddenly-pertinent story. This became the theme of our rum-spiked banter, captured most poignantly when I asked them why they were returning to New Orleans.

“For the stories,” Brian stated simply. I understood perfectly. I have more stories from my week in NOLA than I do from my month in Sydney. There is something so very raw, so real, about the people of New Orleans. They live in the present more than any other people I have ever known.

“…Because you never know if today will be your last,” Ashley added to the thought I’d shared. A sobering thought to most, but far from sobering to a New Orleanian. The hurricane season is an annual reminder not just of Katrina, but of the brevity of life itself. So… sobering? Far from it. Life-giving. Every day is a gift. Freedom to express, freedom to love, freedom to live – are all daily treasures.

As Brian put it, New Orleans is the city of “close enough”. No one is there to get famous, gain status, or acquire prestige. They are there to find a culture that doesn’t wreak of pretension. They are there to hear music played for the sake of music. They are there to live passionately for passion’s sake. They are there for story. Whether it’s to add to their own or discover other’s.

Song, dance, folklore, myths, oral tradition and finally the written word were invented to tell the story of the human race. Stories have long since been passed down from our ancestors to provide guidance, wisdom and even entertainment from one generation to the next. On an individual level, our stories are what reveal our humanity. This is why I write, why I dance, why I travel. This is why people such as Brian and Ashley move their whole lives from one city to another. Because who are we without our story?