Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores
Photographer Patricia Gulick

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

9/30/19 RMB Clock Said 6:30

9/30/19 RMB Clock Said 6:30

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

I drove home my usual route determined to notice something, anything. It amazes me how many moments pass and how few of them we remember. I wanted something special to mark this day, the last day of September.

Stopped at a light I looked to my right at a row of houses I have seen hundreds of times, steady soldiers holding their ground as if they would remain there forever. But we know that’s not true, we who have seen houses grow old and then be replaced by a large apartment complex or completely cleared away for a new highway.

From one house hung a clock. It was over a foot in diameter, hanging from gold painted bars, looking for the world like an over-sized pocket watch. I thought it was just for decoration. It couldn’t be working, not out in the elements, even though it had a nice shiny glass covering its face.

I glanced at the hands and they clearly marked 6:30. The time was correct. In that moment, I was in another world, a place where giant clocks can hang and keep time while barely covered by the roof of a porch, where homes are forever and the setting sun waits for a solitary driver to acknowledge the day before it sets and takes the day away.

Remembering that moment,

Monday, September 9, 2019

9/8/19 RMB Diane Shea, Writer and Champion of Peace

9/8/19 RMB Diane Shea, Writer and Champion of Peace

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

Diane’s daughter introduced me to her. She sparkled with energy. Plants responded to her care and her backyard was a wonderful place to be. Flowers bloomed and fruit could be picked right from the tree that stood near the ever-ready chairs and canopy. 

She joined our Writers Circle and as the years passed, a history was revealed of an adventurous woman who joined a Peace March across our country in her youth and traveled through other countries, sharing their wonders with her children, including my friend.

Reading and writing were two of her favorite hobbies and she did both with a flare. She published a book of poetry and left several notebooks full of her life experiences. At our Writers Circle gatherings, she sometimes read from those notebooks. What treasures they held.

Tonight, her breathing is labored, and the coming days hold a new adventure for our friend.

When the time comes for her to depart her presence will be missed, she will forever remain in our hearts. I believe our loved ones return to visit even from that far away. I’ve seen too much proof of it to believe anything else. She will be with us again, even more closely than she has been recently as her body and mind provided challenges that her spirit worked to overcome.

My dear Jennifer, who has mothered her mother these last few years will be set free of this burden of love. And I wonder if what she will feel is anything at all kin to what Diane felt as her little girl went off to school for the first time or when she sailed away to Baja California with her new husband.

All transitions tug at our hearts, threaten to break them and leave new strengths and understanding in their wake.

9/9/19 It is morning now and Diane has crossed over from here to there. She leaves us with the lifelong work she did for Peace, her writing, her joys, and a bond with each other, made stronger because her spirit is a part of our Circle.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

7/22/19 RMB Treasured Friend

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

That winter night was cool as we leaned against her white ‘78 Chevrolet Camaro with the two pin stripes of black and maroon reaching from headlight to taillight. The shiny pavement glistened with recently fallen rain. Trees stood tall, full of leaves shiny with moisture. They waved in the wind, sparkling from the glow of the streetlights.

She tossed a coin over her head and a second later we heard it drop in the dark. “What are you doing?” I asked.

She shrugged, “I don’t know.” And tossed another coin.

“Don’t do that. You’re going to hit someone’s car and break a window or something.”

She laughed, “I hadn’t thought of that.” The fall of the next coin made more of a chinking sound.

“Seeee. Why are you throwing coins?”

“Well, look at this?” she said and showed me another coin before tossing it. “I won’t miss that coin. But tomorrow,” she shook a finger for emphasis, “some kid will find it and it will be like, ‘Wow! Look what I found!’”

Nearly 40 years have passed since that night. Yesterday we sat at a small table with another old friend on the third floor of the Marriott Hotel and talked about who had made it to the 50th reunion of the San Diego Comic Convention. She, a past Treasurer of the Con with her husband, a past President of the event, were flown here for the anniversary.

I could recall most of the people she mentioned. We three shared photos of family and took new ones of each other. That long-ago winter’s night comes to mind as I consider the whirlwind of our Comic Con weekend with its sprinkling of short visits, time between panels she was scheduled to attend and the parking meters or other obligations calling my name. 

Yes, there were treasures to be found on that street nearly four decades ago and mine was standing right beside me all the while.



Monday, July 15, 2019

7/15/19 RMB Ankle Deep

7/15/19 RMB Ankle Deep

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

It is a sunny Monday morning, a brand-new week. Seven days stretch out before us. What will fill the 168 hours, indeed 10,080 minutes, that we are already ankle deep into?

San Diego has wrapped up our Pride Weekend and embarks on our upcoming Comic Con weekend. July is full of celebrations, starting with the 4th of July.

It is a good time to be alive and a this is a good country to call home. This year marks 50 years since Stonewall and also the 50th anniversary of Comic Con. I remember going to the Con as a teen and thinking that it was a wonderful environment of open minds, exploring and sharing ideas.

Yet, the phrase that comes to mind this morning is “And miles to go before I sleep” from the old Robert Frost poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. We have come far, but there is much work to do.

From border conflicts, to political hijinks, we have a lot to overcome, to rise above, to learn from and then move forward towards a smarter, kinder, better representation of humanity.

Each dawn begins anew our march into our future, with the moments we are in ankle deep, the direction we move in and the stance we take are the telling of who we are and who we will be.

Onward we go,

Sunday, June 30, 2019

6/30/19 RMB Pursuit of the Solution

6/30/19 RMB Pursuit of the Solution

Dear Rita Mae Brown,
My bookshelf overflows with titles promising the answers to problems that persist.

They are:
The Big Thing: How to Complete your Creative Project… by Phyllis Korkki
21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers by Stephen J. Harvill
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of being Productive… by Charles Duhigg
Better than Before: Mastering the Habits… by Gretchen Rubin
A People’s Guide to Publishing by Joe Biel
Leap of Perception by Penney Peirce
Listful Thinking by Paula Rizzo         

And for fun, distraction and the study of fiction, depending on the day, I also have:
The Purrfect Murder by the one and only Rita Mae Brown
Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station by Dorothy Gilman
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

Some are audio books in my car for the daily commute, others are audio books on my phone for long walks, or ebooks for when I wait in line at the bank and during my lunch breaks. Others are actual, physical, page turning books. Most are from the wonderful San Diego County Library.

Here is the thing. Friends will point out that I have the skills I seek to learn, the list making, goal setting, life improvement, and writing skills. Yet my frustration remains in the differences of who I am and who I’d like to be. My friends understand this part. Many of us face this quandary.

It seems having the knowledge and ability, is not the solution to getting from here to there. Yet, in my pursuit of that solution, I feel the books draw me nearer to it, as does at times, the whisper of the trees, the beauty of the sunset, and the companionship of the dog.

Someplace in between the lines, drifting above the surface of my moments, close enough to reach for, but thus far just out of my grasp, are the answers I crave. And in searching for them I am coming to know that the pursuit is in part, for me anyway, as important as the discovery of those answers.

Enjoying the first week of summer,

Sunday, June 23, 2019

6/23/19 RMB Hello Summer

6/23/19 RMB Hello Summer

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

Summer has arrived. The air is a dryer, at least here in Southern California that’s the case. The deserts are heating up to triple digits. The days of daylight stretching into the evening hours have reached their peak. Dusk will join us a bit earlier from here on into fall.

I’d like to say that I spent the time since my last letter finalizing my novel, or finally fixing up that spare room, or on making headway on some giant goal. Alas, there were wonderful adventures, like viewing the Ramona play in Hemet, celebrating its 96th season, and the recent family reunion in Seacrest, Florida. However, the vast majority of moments were simply lived.

Our Writers Circle met last night and our ten minute writing theme was “Lost dog”, which I shortened to “Lost” and wrote:

Lost days mount up. All that I could do or would do remains undone, and a challenge for my future self. That future self will be more efficient and accomplish so much more than present me, who’s highest priority is to watch the last few shows of Alias, season 4.

Future self can juggle writing that novel, work, home repairs, mastering tarot card readings, and, of course, watch season 5 of Alias. Yes, future self will get it all done, or at least that is what present me believes, so that I can put off to tomorrow what I don’t feel moved to do today.

This is a Universal quandary, not mine alone. That brings some comfort. Still, I don’t look forward to the talk with my future self about all that is still left undone when the time of doing anything ends.

It has been a good few months, not really “lost” in a sad sense, just gone with little progress on “my list”. And now we move onward to make the next few months better, starting with this RMB letter and a this inspirational note from Jean Trebek’s website

Today begins it.

Today is the fresh start.
Today is the new year.
Today is the joy.
Do it.
The one thing.
– Alison Martin

Found on:

Enjoy today,

Saturday, February 23, 2019

2/23/19 RMB Nudged

2/23/19 RMB Nudged

Dear Rita Mae Brown,
The new year has stormed in, literally. What started as a fall full of welcome rain, has turned into a winter deluge. My heart goes out to those badly affected by the storms nationwide. My friend the Sun, “Grandfather” to Teddy who follows Native American traditions, is shining brightly today, a most joyous site.

I apologize for the lapse in letters. I have no good reason for it, other than life itself. It seems to fill up days until they become weeks and then months. You have been on my mind, despite or maybe because of, the lack of letters.

I’ve read about your happenings in the news, new books, talks, and so forth. I believe your most recent publication is Whiskers in the Dark. Your ability to turn out entertaining book after book amazes me.

The accounting guru at our small publishing company came in with a 2 x 2 square inch of paper a few weeks ago. Handing me the crossword puzzle of the day, she said, “I saved this for you”. The answer to one clue was “Rita Mae Brown”.

You would think that might nudge me to write, but words had not gathered to form a letter yet.  The next day, I was driving along minding my own business, when the license plate ahead nudged me again, “VIRGINIA” it said, big and bold.

In California, license plates from other states are common, although normally not from so far away. I planned to tell my friend Carol about the second nudge when we went for our walk in the park that evening. Before I had the chance, we passed a young man wearing a black sweatshirt with large bright bold white letters reflecting the evening’s lamplight, “WISH YOU WERE HERE”.

I explained the license plate and passing the shirt proclaiming the title of your first book collaboration with Sneaky Pie Brown. She had noticed the shirt too. Okay, I thought to the Universe, message received.

However, the Universe wasn’t done playing. Carol accompanied me on a book delivery to Cabrillo National Monument the next day, where we enjoyed our daily walk during a rare beak from the rain. On the way to our car afterwards, we passed another VIRGINIA license plate. We both laughed.  

To cap it off, we as we were driving home, we looked at the license plate on the car in front of us at the same time and rang out with “VIRGINIA!” simultaneously.

Message received, letter written, most sincerely,