Roadrunner Musings

Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

God’s Hotel: New Read

I’m reading God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet for one of those clubs I told you about yesterday and I’m already halfway through it. I started it now, even though the meeting isn’t for nearly three weeks, thinking it was going to be boring and I wanted enough time to slog through.

And now I can’t put it down. Wow. It’s like a memoir mixed with history and current events. So far, her story is filled with some of the most beautiful AND tear-jerking scenes that I’ve ever read; real scenes, too, which makes them all the more painful.

I also feel like the author is pretty fair. The book doesn’t seem politically motivated or too one-sided. It describes problems she’s experienced as the healthcare system in the US has evolved over her career without making it sound like it’s all easily fixable. “If we only did X, then everyone would live forever in a happy state of bliss!”

I’m enjoying the read immensely.

I posted these two quotes to my Instagram this morning, not that anyone has seen them. Can you feel the sad? Sometimes that place makes me feel more like a misfit than I ever did in high school, which is saying A LOT.

god's hotel

“…I learned that medicine had once had a name for this, this something present in the living body bout was missing from the corpse.
Spiritus was the breath, the regular, rhythmic breathing of the love body that is so shockingly absent from the dead.
Anima is the invisible force that animates the body, that moves it, not only willfully but also unconsciously- all those little movements that the living body makes all the time.”

This caught my breath because I was there the day my grandmother died. (I’m not using a euphemism. She died, end of line.) And I was there the day after, just in time to sit with her body and say goodbye. It was an amazing experience; one I wish everyone could have.

There is nothing like it in this world.

The last time I saw her, she was in a hospice bed in her living room, unconscious but alive, filled with “spiritus” and “anima.” Even though she could not respond to our attentions, she was there, probably listening and wondering why she could not move her body or give us the “look” for our playful rudeness to each other. She had pancreatic cancer and was in so much pain. I squeezed her warm hand and told her I loved her very much, that we would be ok if she wanted to go, and that we’d take care of grandpa and each other.

Early the next morning, my mom called to tell me she had died, and I headed over to be with her and grandpa. Grandma was still in her bed, just as I had left her. On the way over I was afraid to see her, wondering how I would feel. We were so close all my life. But when I sat on the bed next to her, everything was different. My grandma’s spirit had left her body behind and there was nothing to do but get rid of it.

So strange to feel nothing holding the hand of a body that no longer held the woman I loved so much. Wherever she is, I know she heard me the day before and there was nothing else I needed to say to this…corpse. The ancients knew this. Why have we lost the knowledge?

And then there was this:

god's hotel

“Palimpsest seemed to be a perfect way of describing what I was beginning to learn at Laguna Honda: That underneath our scientific modern medicine was an earlier way of understanding the body – erased, to be sure, just a faint shadow of our consciousness, but active in our thoughts and desires, nonetheless.”

Palimpsestwriting material (such as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased

Humanity lived on this planet for thousands of years before modern science. We had ways of staying alive as best we could, things that did work and things that didn’t. Some of those things simply made us feel better about living and dying. Why do we believe we can just throw all that information out and rely on only the modern science of numbers, tests, and forms? Do we really believe that humanity lived in utter darkness, fumbling around, a miracle of survival, until a mere hundred or so years ago?

Like I said, I’m very much enjoying God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet, and I never would have heard of it if it weren’t for this new book club that I am GOING to GO to, whether my anxiety wants to or not. Have you heard of it? Read it? Have any thoughts you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Something Crazy, Hold on to Your Potatoes

My dear, dear reader, I have done something crazy. You may want to sit down while you read this. Oh, wait, most people ARE sitting down while they read. At least, I hope they are. Maybe you’re one of those, “I’ll read on my phone while I walk” people. What? Why?! Explain yourself!

Never mind that. Here comes the news.

I have joined an in-person book club.

I know! I warned you it would be crazy!

And guess what? It’s local, like right here in my own town kind of local. And I’m going. I have the book and I’m reading it, now all I have to do is summon (that world does not look right at all) up all the courage I have and actually get in my truck, drive over there, walk in the door, and introduce myself.

“All I have to do…” Ug…my heart races and I feel sick just writing that. But I’m going to do it!

There are lots of reasons not to join a book club. First of all, there are people there. And second, they may be reading books that mean absolutely nothing to me. And then…did I mention people?

But, you guys, I need to get out and meet new people. I’ve gotten out of practice and THAT’S why it seems so complicated. What better way than at a book club? Nothing can go wrong, not really. And I’m not bound to keep going for any reason. The worst can only be showing up and feeling a bit awkward for an hour or so. I can handle this. I’ve been awkward all my life!

Just writing that made me think of something I could use to get through this first encounter with new people. During my meditation practice, I’ve been learning to simply BE in my feelings, allow them to hang out even if they are ugly, and not react to them. What if I did that at the meeting?

Instead of working myself up these next few weeks, worrying about who they might be, what they might say, or whether or not I’ll make a fool out of myself, I’ll just read the book. And that day, when I’m supposed to be getting my stuff together and driving over there, I’ll simply do that.

I’ll be nervous about getting there on time and not getting lost. I’ll feel sick about it and not be able to eat dinner before I go. But that’s ok. That’s only ancient instincts reminding me that new people, new situations, may be dangerous. This is not dangerous, so I’ll calm myself by taking deep breaths and giving myself a hug, maybe bring a nice, iced lemonade with a shot of tequila hidden in it.

Want to know what my other biggest fear is? My mouth running out of control.

When I’m nervous, I fill any pause with incessant chatter, and sometimes it’s not pleasant. It’s like I’m two people, the person making noise and the person in my head saying, “Shut up! Oh, my…why must you open your mouth?! Wow, that’s just great. They are never going to invite you again.” Which only makes me more nervous and then more talkative.

I’m wondering how I can solve this problem. How do I find a way to be ok with some pauses in the conversation? How do I relax and think, instead of filling up space with anything that comes to mind? I really don’t know. Tequila probably doesn’t help.

Wait…there’s more to this book club thing. You’re going to laugh.

I’ve joined two of them. Yep. I heard that Meet-Up was a good place to find groups, so I joined it…again (I have run away from it before) and started looking around. I found several that meet online, but virtual people will not help me get back into the swing of making friends, so I kept looking.

something crazy
I have a new book journal too!

One that I settled on is local, like right here in River City kind of local. And the books they’ve read over the past year are ones that I would read. One book is actually sitting on my TBR shelf! The book I’m reading for that group is God’s Hotel: A doctor, a hospital, and a pilgrimage to the heart of medicine by Victoria Sweet.

The other group is a little more outside my comfort zone. It’s a little farther away and it’s only for women. You know how I feel about women, right? That’s a whole other story. A sad one. A “Why do I not fit in!” kind of story. But it’s time to face my fears and get out there. Besides, they are reading an awesome little book called The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn, a self-help book written by a woman and published in 1925. If a self-help book is still in print 100 years later, it has to mean something.

The best part, the part that says these women might be fun? They’re meeting at The Yard for drinks while we chat about the book. Drinks AND books? Yes, please!

The book club reads mean that I’ve had to put aside How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler to read other books. How funny is that?! I haven’t completely abandoned it. That would be so cruel. I’m reading it for about a half an hour in the morning each day, like an appetizer. The first chapters have been depressing, talking about changes in the education system and how it had been affecting college students and university professors.

It was written in 1940, so we can see where those changes have gotten us, but then again everything changes and it’s not the end of the world. Reading The Opening of the American Mind by Lawrence W. Levine softened my stance quite a bit. But that was written in the 90’s in response to the same changes that Adler is complaining about, so things have kept changing for sure and we all see the negative effects that Adler was worrying about.

I’m hoping he gets to the part that tells me how to read better soon. I love to read, but I find myself forgetting most of it and I’d love to be able to connect the dots between books more often, which is why I picked up the book in the first place.

And here I am, over one thousand words later, on a day in a month that I said I wouldn’t post. It looks like over the last four months I’ve created a habit that I don’t want to break. I think what I’ll do this month is keep it up, but instead of making sure I write and post every single day just to get that dopamine hit when I see this:

I’ll not make myself (more) nuts trying to create and post on days when I need to be out of the house at 7am.

So, you WILL hear from me in May after all! Aren’t you excited?! I am. I like sharing my thoughts here, what I’m reading and thinking, what I’m seeing and experiencing. I hope you enjoy reading it.

How To Read A Book: New Read

Four straight months of daily posts, you guys. That’s a personal record. And now I’m facing a dilemma. Do I keep going? Part of me loves habits, the other part loathes them.

Should I keep writing daily? Yes, I believe so, but what? Posting about what I’m reading doesn’t seem to be catching anyone’s eyeballs or interest, but it is what I love and that’s why I started this blog in the first place. I wanted to share my daily thoughts about the books I read. I learn more than what the author originally intended when I read. Every book I read triggers new ideas and memories, links one thought to another, and pushes me forward. How do I do a better job of conveying those ideas here?

Should I change my posting schedule? For the past four months, I’ve been posting every day what I wrote that morning after I read. It’s more of a stream of consciousness, triggers, and reactions, than planned thought and ideas. I don’t know what I’ll end up telling you every day. Is there a way to change that?

Should I take some time off from posting completely, but keep writing daily? THAT is what I think I’ll do in May. I’ll keep reading and writing every day, and then work toward a more manageable posting schedule to start in June. For the month of May, I would like to commit to one post a week to keep myself accountable though, I’m just not sure what that post would entail. Maybe only posting when I start or finish a book?

So, my faithful reader, you may not hear from me much the next few weeks, but rest assured, I am not dead.

how to read a book

I’ll leave you today with the book I began reading yesterday, How to Read A Book: The Art of Getting a Liberal Education by Mortimer J. Adler. This author was a bit of hero of mine when I started homeschooling 18 years ago…sheesh, I just said that, scary. I first heard of him when I heard Oliver DeMille speak at my first homeschool conference. That presentation changed the way I looked at education and how I ended up educating my kids and myself.

Reading great books was the basis of our whole system. No curriculum, no testing, no writing essays or answering detailed questions. We simply read books, any and all books, together every day. We talked about them, questioned the story and what the author intended, looked up words we didn’t know. We found other books (both fiction and non-fiction), movies, and documentaries, related to what we were reading. And we learned so much.

I found this book in a friend’s collection of giveaways and saved it for myself. I’ve decided to read it now because I feel like I need a reminder of why I read, and a refresher course on how.

Sitting here, writing this, I’m not sure where I’m going, both with my reading and this blog. And writing? Well, I’m not sure that’s my main focus anymore. I just don’t know. What I need is some quiet focus time and I’ve never been very good at that.

Do I need a goal, a reason to write here? Do I need a purpose at all? I’m not sure that I do. Can’t my reading and writing follow my interests the way my mind and heart always has? It seems to have served me well this far.

Is a Healthy Family a Career?

I told you why I put From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks on my list in the first place in my previous post about the book, so I won’t rehash that. It took me longer to read because I did something crazy and DIDN’T read while I was on my three-day-weekend getaway with my mom. I’ll be honest and say it wasn’t on purpose. I just didn’t have time. I slept a lot more than usual and we had plans to start exploring the area early each morning we were there.

healthy family

This book was depressing at first. It not only made me feel old and therefore useless, it made me feel like my lack of any real success drive even when I was younger signified a wasted life. What have I accomplished in my life so far? What goals achieved? What have I created? Where have I left my mark in the world? What will I be remembered for?

I started to think this book was not written for the likes of me. I was right. It was written for those high achievers out there, the people that are driven to produce and excel and succeed in business. I am not one of those people. My drive has always been relational. I’ve always been more interested in relating to people better than achieving fame or accumulating wealth. Not because I’m better than them, but because it just doesn’t interest me.

I considered not reading the rest of the book, but I’m glad I did because of two lines.

“…a career reset does not have to result in a midlife crisis.”


“I’m crazy if I think it’s too late to reset.”

As I read through the book, I started to realize something, I have had a career and I have been driven to make a success of it, to create something that extends into the future, and to be remembered by people for what I did.

That career has been my children and my family and now I’m entering retirement, but that doesn’t mean I’m useless. I’m only at the beginning of an elder phase, that time of life where I clean up my nest, build more knowledge, start connecting and repurposing those things I’ve learned over the last twenty-five years.

This book has shown me that and some ways to do it more gracefully. I’m happy I finished it.

Holding Space Today

I’m trying something new today. Instead of freaking out and burning the world down, I’m holding space for feelings, just putting everything aside and relaxing with myself.

I’m not sure what to write this morning, or even if I should. WordPress reminded me that I’ve been at this for seven years today and I’ve been spiraling in existential thoughts ever since.

This is how my morning went.

holding space

I decided to take an extra cup of coffee out on the porch to think. Of course, I took my phone with me…can’t miss a text, you know. But I’m glad I did because I got these pictures.

It’s spring in the desert, so the morning sun is gorgeous to sit in. This is my favorite morning spot, staring out at the desert. Chili followed me after a couple minutes, and Abe was close behind.

“So this is where we are sitting now? Hmm…ok.”

They both watched the desert with me a while.

So what are my existential thoughts this morning? Hmm…dare I share them?

Considering why I write and if I should. Wondering if there is any point to social media lately. Longing for in person conversation over deeper subjects than what my kids are doing. Thinking about taking a break from posting (but not writing) for the month of May, but that limits my contact with the outside world even more.

I’ve recently joined a local Meetup book club and I am wondering if I’ll actually go. Meeting new people in new situations is one of my most difficult pursuits. I think it’s time, and it could be a great way to face my fears and start… I don’t know, branching out?

I feel like I’m in a rut.

Maybe writing just isn’t my thing?

So I’m holding space today just to think, in this post and in my physical surroundings.

I finished reading From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks and I know I’ll have some words about that tomorrow. For now though, I think I’ll just leave it in my head to roll around some.

From Strength to Strength: New Read

Just before my glorious weekend out of town, I started reading From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life by Arthur C. Brooks. Why pick this one up? I can’t possibly even BE in the “second half of life” since I’m clearly far too young, but alas…I am…chokes…nearly fifty years old. And I am already starting my “retirement,” so I think I qualify.

And now I hear you asking, “Retiring from what, Michelle? You haven’t had a career or even a job in nearly twenty years!” I may not have worked outside my home, but I have been a housewife AND homeschooling mom and since my boys are finally (mostly) out of the nest, “Hello, Retirement!”

Let me tell you, it is a big shift. One I didn’t even realize was starting or would hit me this hard. Retirement is rough, especially if you’re a driven kind of person and you fully enjoy your career.

I found myself asking, “What’s next?! Is life over? Does retirement mean sitting here, reading a book until I die?” And then running around screaming and crying from time to time, much to the dismay of my poor husband who is NOT retired and works from home.

I’ve been doing some serious soul searching the last few years, and this book is only another chapter of that story, some research into another point of view. I decided to order it after I read one of Arthur C. Brooks other books, Love Your Enemies.

This morning I read this:

“The aspen tree, it turns out, is not a solitary majesty, as I learned by sheer coincidence later that day from a friend who knows more about trees than I do. He explained to me that each “individual” tree forms part of an enormous root system. In fact, the aspen is the largest living organism in the world; one stand of aspens in Utah called “Pando” spans 106 acres and weighs 6 million kilograms.

That “lone” aspen I was looking at was no such thing. It was simply one shoot up from a vast root system – one expression among many of the same plant.”

from strength to strength

I made a mark there in the book, a bracket around the paragraph and a small heart. I need to remember this picture, I thought.

Then I started thinking back to yesterday, when I met my sons for dinner out and spent over an hour talking about college classes, work, surfing, and philosophy, over some amazing tacos. We somehow got onto the idea of Buddhist enlightenment, when my eldest reminded me of the one drop in the ocean idea, where we discover we are everything and everything is us, a part of the whole and the whole at the same time. Once we realize it, we see ourselves in everything. My youngest chimes in with “Like a bubble popping. You float along, realize you are the whole and pop, you’re gone, dissipated and there but not there.” We stopped and thought about. Yeah. Nice.

This morning, on the way back from coffee with a local friend, I stopped at the post office to pick up a package. Waiting in line, I looked around me. The woman in front of me smiled and set down her package on the counter. We laughed together at the face the woman behind us made at having to lick an envelope. And it hit me: these are other aspen trees.

I smiled slightly, internalizing the moment of realizing that I AM connected to these seemingly disconnected people. My reaction to them changes them and theirs changes me.

We may look like we’re each a standing “lone” tree in this world, but we certainly are not. Like those aspens groves, beneath the ground our roots are all one system. Each of us has an affect on the other. When one falls, another grows taller. When one sways, the others sway with it.

Here’s what he says on the next page:

“The secret to bearing my decline – no, enjoying it – is to be more conscious of the roots linking me to others. If I am connected to others in love, my decrease will be more than offset by increases in others – which is to say, increases in other facets of my true self.”

My extended family, my friends, and those I connect with online and in person every day are what make life and death beautiful. Those connections, that love, lasts forever in the roots beneath the soil.

Blooms, Messages, and Luck

I’m just not ready. For what? Anything really, I’m not a big fan of changes but then I get bored and HAVE to make a change. But that’s not what I’ve come to talk about. This is much more simple topic.

I’m not ready to come back to my morning routine. I’m not ready to read in the morning. Therefore…I cannot write to you about books just yet.

I have early plans this morning so I had to make a choice. I don’t have time for EVERYTHING. Read, yoga, meditate, write, breakfast. I’ve got a “pick two” from the menu type of situation here.

It took me a while but I’m picking yoga and write. And write comes first. But write what?

While on vacation, I’ve been waking up, getting a cup of coffee, scrolling and smiling thru IG and the previous days photos, and then writing something ON MY PHONE, and I’m loving it so much, I may just keep the habit. Maybe not on my phone though. We’ll see.

So…hmm…let’s see what I have in here this morning. Not everything has to be brilliant, right?

How about some simple pleasures?


This is a tiny houseplant a friend bought me at the grocery store for Valentine’s day. I’ve repotted it and it has bloomed again! ❤


A day dreaming type of sky. I was on my way back to the house from the laundry room behind my garage when I decided to take a break and watch this gorgeous sky. I laid in the bed of my truck in the driveway for about ten minutes just experiencing it.

The sun was warm but not hot. The wind was blowing gently. And these clouds, so dynamic. I wished I could take a video of them floating and changing as I watched. I imagined them working themselves into a private message in the sky.


And then there’s this guy. Years ago, my brother brought him over. “He’s supposed to be good luck but so far he’s failed miserably at his task!” So to test whether it was the cat or something else, he left it at my house. If my luck turned for the worse, there you go!

Yeah… we torture each other. ❤

My sons carried it back with us on a road trip and secretly left it back in his house. Another experiment! He found it and returned it the next time he came to visit. And here he sits.

He lost his arm a while ago but I can’t bear to throw him out. He makes me smile. Last week, as I sat here reading my book, I heard a weird clicking noise and turned to see the morning sun fully resting on his little solar panel. He has no arm to wave, but he cares not. The mechanism inside him clicks back and forth anyway when the sun powers him up.

Don’t we all?

And There We Sat: A Modern Myth Begins

The plan: walk as far as we could toward the caves below.

We had no intention of getting to them. The steps were far too steep for us. We may get to the bottom, but we didn’t believe we would ever get back out and there we would sit, making our lives at bottom of the ravine.

Maybe we could open a taco stand? Sell sustenance to the others that had made their way down, only watch them lithely clamber back up the path and those treacherous steps after partaking of our hard work.

I can just see the sorry looks on their faces as they pity bought our delicious tacos. Oh these poor people, stuck at the bottom of a ravine! The humanity!

We’d make up a story about how we had traveled down and seeing how beautiful and rich in resources it was, we decided to make it our home.

Taking a startled look around, they’d start to wonder. Resources? Say… how do you get the ingredients for these wonderful tacos? Someone would eventually ask.

We’d take a sly look at each other and smile. Yes. Locally sourced, of course.

Those silly people would slowly chew the last bite of their “delicious” tacos, or stop chewing altogether and think… wait a minute. Locally sourced what?

In the distant past, a wandering cow may have found its way up the ravine, but certainly not a chicken or a pig. And since the area was made into a park, there were no more cattle. So what kind of meat IS this?

And what about tortillas? Lettuce? Tomatoes? What kind of salsa is this?

A little late to ask now, we would giggle to ourselves as we stacked the bodies up in our “cold storage” for later use.

And there we sat at the end of the evening, another days work done, a modern myth created and maintained.

Drunken Trees: A Vacation Post

It was after 6am when I woke up today in a hotel room in Arizona. I can’t remember the last time I slept that late.

I stumbled upon something precious while exploring a creek in Northern Arizona yesterday and I was lucky enough to get a picture to share with you.

“Day Use Only” the sign posted on the spilt rail fence along the side of the road read. We had spotted a nicely maintained graveled road off the main highway with promising sign that read, “No camping within 200ft of river.”

I assumed that meant that camping elsewhere was ok, so we decided to explore the route more.

Two or three established spots along the road and then we find, “No camping beyond this point.”

Well…ok…we kept driving. The junipers here are tall and shaggy, not like the squat bushy ones around my area. Peeking out between them are grasses and prickly pear cactus growing in the cracks of large red rocks that look like an ancient sea bed pushed up toward the sky over millenia.

The road sloped downward and curved east and when we came around a bend we found… a day use area with river access and a bathroom!

Oooh! This is a gorgeous little picnic area! It was Saturday afternoon, the weather was gorgeous, but no one was there.

Maybe it’s haunted?

We keep heading down the road to see where it goes. Maybe there’s more camping further back?

We found another “No camping beyond this point. ” and then another. Confusing. Where is this point? Where CAN you camp?

“I think the sign is being moved. We keep driving slow. They think we’re looking for a place to camp so they move the sign.”


“The trees.”

Being in the bottom of a small canyon, along a river that flows all summer, there were a lot of trees. Junipers, sycamores, birch, and another tree that had tinee tiny pinecone looking seeds. It’s early spring here so the leaves are just starting to come out. The diciduous trees look fuzzy green with the evergreen shaggy junipers standing among them.

That’s when we came to the end of the road, for us anyway. The road went on but it became private at that point, a driveway to a ranch tucked back in the canyon. I imagined living there a hundred years ago or more, when it was likely established.

A small house, a large meadow near a river in the desert, shaded by the rocks of the steep canyon. Seems perfect for cattle.

That split rail fence we parked next to, you remember the fence don’t you? It has a break in it to allow humans (I think) access to the grassy bank along the river, so we took the invitation and walked down.

There was indeed a beautiful picnic area and some evidence of recent visitors; a broken pail, a crushed egg shell, a frayed rope from a overhanging branch (I assume some kids used to jump into the river and not the local ranchers used to hang horse thieves).

That is when I saw this.

Looks like these two had a bit of a bender last night, stayed out too late and ended up frozen like this as the sun came up. The juniper, always full of its tiny leaves, sap running all winter long, sidels up beside the sleepy sycamore.

Come on Harry. Wake up. It’s spring!

What? No, more week.

No, now. Look the creek is rising and the sun was so warm today that I can still feel its warmth in my branches.

Yawns and stretches…I suppose… one drink tonight and then I’m going back to sleep.

Yeah, that’s what he said every year.

Several hours and many drinks later, they’re swaying with their arms around each other, singing their hearts out to the sleeping canyon. And that’s how we found them.

Early Saturday Morning Post

It’s very early on Saturday morning, and I’m so tired. It hasn’t been an extraordinarily busy week, but my body and mind seem to think so. Why am I here, writing to you THIS early? Why don’t I sleep in? Because I’m heading out for a mini-vacation today and I don’t want to break my daily writing streak!

saturday morning

Like said in an earlier post, I finished reading The Mayfair Bookshop by Eliza Knight and I left it every bit as in love as when I started it. So much was beautiful there, I wanted to jump into it and disappear. So many gorgeous characters, so many books written and read.

It inspired me to go looking for a book club again and this time I found one AND it’s local. They meet next month; I’ve bought the book and you know I’ll read it. But will I bring myself to attend? I want to, but I can’t say for sure. I need an emotional support human, but I think I’ll be facing this scary thing alone…maybe I could bring one of my personalities!

I was going to go back and quote this book a few more times, but the first one I saw this morning when I flipped through the book was perfect, so I’m leaving you with it.

“I stopped writing, so much more on my mind, and yet so little to say.” Yeah…I’ve felt that way all week and I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. I need more quiet space to think.

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