finding inspiration

Here’s a page I made…three years ago now…in the front of my bullet journal.

(Looks like it got a little wet.)

(It *also* looks like this whole ‘action’ thing has been brewing awhile!) (I’m referring to this. The whole motion vs. action thing I’ve talked about lately.)

Opposite that page — on that Inspiration spread, in bujolingo — I jotted Where I Find Inspiration: visual artists...the change of places + experiences...women a decade, decades, past me who are dreaming and doing...scientists...retreating...'artification' (making the ordinary notable)...Viktor learning...always learning...

With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few places I’m finding inspiration — today.


This was ‘in the air’ in Blogland this week.

By coincidence, a handful of us read the second book by Margareta Magnusson, author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning (2017). I found it warm + embraceable, light + poignant, funny* + thoughtful. And especially meaningful, written by an octogenarian. (MM was 86 when she wrote it; 89 at publication!)

The next day, I found an old note while clearing my desk. Ten years ago, my friend, Amy, was the primary caregiver to her 85-year-old mother as she wound down her days in home-based Hospice. Amy and her mom were cut from the same cloth: funny, intelligent, strong-willed. From Revere, Massachusetts. Re-VEE-ah, if you’re from there.

When talking to me, Amy calls her mom by her nickname, Tess. She told me — and I wrote this down, verbatim, in 2018 —

So Tess is on her deathbed, right? And she says to me, ‘Amy, get that book. No. Not that one. The big one.’ Now, Carolyn, it’s a book of 1,000 Irish poems. A thousand! ‘Read it to me,’ she says. And I ask her, ‘Which one do you want to hear, Mum?’ ‘Just start on page one,’ Tess says. And, I hated to break it to her, but, we weren’t gonna get half way through that book, if you know what I mean. But Tess. She insists. ‘Start on page one. It doesn’t matter how long or short the book is. You just. must. begin.’

You’ve heard the phrase live like you’re dying? I suppose this is more like…die like you’re living. That was very much Tess.


I’ve told you how this book inspired me to join this organization, whose purpose is to ‘bring Americans together to bridge the partisan divide and strengthen our democratic republic.’ (No small task.) (But it excites me.)

Last Saturday, I participated in my first hands-on workshop. Along with 55 other ‘blues,’ we role played bridging conversations by listening, then responding, to a hot-button issue.

A few hours from now, I’ll get on a Zoom for a ‘real life’ 1:1 Blue/Red conversation. The folks at Braver Angels paired me with a self-described ‘Red’ from the PacNW…a structural engineer close to retirement (who happened to be on a road trip with his family when we were ‘introduced’).

I thought I’d be nervous scared for this voluntary conversation. I mean, one on one? With a total stranger? For an hour?! Paired because of a fundamental difference? I’m not, though. At all. We have the same intentions: To make things better. Not worse. To engage. Not isolate. To at least attempt to learn. (And keep learning.)

Bonus! Mónica Guzmán, author of I Never Thought of it That Way, will speak at Chautauqua this summer That’s, like, 15 minutes away. Yes.


On the other end of that age spectrum? My son, 15 years old (and the reason I found p. 74 so funny).

Like any mother, no one loves him more than I do. So I can say with a full-to-bursting heart, I’m pretty sure his spirit animal’s the sloth. (Mine’s a sea turtle; I’m not throwing stones.)

Anyway, as you’d guess, there’s no real…sense of urgency…with him. (I’d hate to see him in a burning house.) So, watching him play basketball can be an exercise, at times. He’s not an aggressive person. Or in a hurry. You won’t find him in the thick of it. (‘Did you see how big they were?!’ when I ask about defensive strategy.)

What is he? True to himself. Steady. Chill. Outrageously capable. Has never, ever had an attitude on the court or in practice. He appreciates the playing time he gets and hasn’t complained when it’s practically nil. He loves his teammates and respects his coach. He’s graceful. And coordinated. Smooth.

photo credit: Amy Swanson

His confidence is building. Troy reminds him the only shot he’s guaranteed to miss is the one he doesn’t take. (He made that shot, above.)

It’s game night tonight, and he’s earned his spot as starting point guard. I love that he earned it. Over the course of, what, three months? Earned it by being…himself.

(He told me after practice last night: Just so you know, [the opposition] is really tall…


6 thoughts on “finding inspiration

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  1. I wish you luck with your Zoom. I’m sure parts of it will be difficult, but the fact that both of you willingly signed up for it will help a lot. That is a big first step toward bridging the distance.

    I think my kid has an inner sloth as well; her favorite response when asked if she’s done something (like homework) yet is, “I was about to.” 😉


  2. I simply loved that book of practically perfect life advice from dear Margareta. (there were so many laugh out loud pages… I laughed at page 74… but for the other child’s actions! Yes, I had a child that required much watching or she’d be sans clothing!)


  3. I’m going to get “The Swedish Art…” book as aging, ageism, and death are the foci of my seventy-year-old life these days. I hope it will make me smile, laugh, and think. I’ve sent a link to your blog to a group of friends with whom I discuss aging. Perhaps you will get a follower or two from it. Love your description of Lincoln! Wish I could meet that young man and Audrey and Elsa someday! And I bought “I Never Thought of it That Way” a while back when you wrote about it. Have only just started it, though. You’ve been very influential in my life, for a youngster!


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