Wrapping Up 2017, Embracing New & Old Loves


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Discovering New Loves – Painting

2017 was the year I revealed my newly discovered passion for painting, and dared to share my work on these pages. So I thought it fitting to end the year with an unfinished painting of a passionate embrace, inspired, no less, by the works of Emil Nolde, Edvard Munch, and Marc Chagal, as follows:

lovers emil nolde

Edvard Munch


Nearly half my posts in 2017 were art related, whether of my own work, or the work of favorite artists, or just about the craft and love of painting. One favorite, my own and others, was a rhapsody on Naming a Painting, “Like Two Lovers in Conversation.”

Several posts paired art with music, starting with Friday Pairings – Butterflies & Vivaldi and including Almost Blue, Jazz & Art, which, along with Artists & Writers in Their Studios, were two art-related posts that made the Top-Ten chart in my blog sidebar, a list that traditionally does not move much.

Renewing Old Loves – Playing Music

But 2017 was also a year for reuniting with old loves, a passion of my youth, playing piano. I treated myself to a baby grand, something I never dreamed I would own, and began relearning to play. Old favorites like Beethoven’s For Eloise and Moonlight Sonata were flowing from my fingertips once again.

In pursuit of my music I discovered, amazingly, two master pianists that you would’ve thought I’d already known: Bill Evans (jazz) and Martha Argerich (classical). I wrote about them and shared their music in Playing Piano, a Full-Body Workout for the Brain and Perfect Pairings, Evans’s “Peace Piece” & Sapiro’s Skies.

In a way, 2017 was the year for making time and space in my life and my home for all my loves, old and new, which I also wrote about. But it wasn’t, isn’t, easy.

Returning to My First Love – Writing

As new loves (painting), and renewed ones (playing piano), took center stage in my life, there seemed little time for my first love, writing, apart from blogging. And so I made a concerted effort to increase my blogging output.

When I started blogging, I averaged one post every 7 to 10 days. But in 2015 and 2016, when my life changed in a dramatic way, my blogging fell off, and once or twice a month became the norm.

This year I made a concerted effort to pick up the pace. Inspired by my 5-year blogging anniversary in July, my posts nearly doubled over the next few months, with 8 posts in August, a new high.

After that flurry, I’m back to about once a week now, and this feels like a good, satisfying and sustainable, pace.

But as much as love blogging, and I DO think of it as “real” writing, I miss creative writing. The novels that have been pushed aside, that wait patiently for my return, still call to me, as I wrote about early this year in Which Would You Choose, My Art or My Novel? Clearly, art won that contest in 2017. But I promised myself that I would return to my novels in 2018. It’s a promise I mean to keep.

Part of that return will be wrapped up in my blog posts. I find writing about writing inspiring. It gets my creative juices flowing.  When I’m thinking out loud on paper about my characters, my themes, their dreams, what drives them, I discover that they are also my dreams, my themes, what drives me essentially, as a writer, an artist, a blogger. Even the music I love and love to play comes from the same place that feeds my soul and fires my passion to create.

In a way, it’s all about exploring our passions, the things that set our souls on fire, and sharing those loves with others. Because love is not love if it does not spill out over onto everything we touch, and touches all who come within its reach.

Wishing you all a happy and passionate embrace of the coming New Year.


“O Holy Night” in Art & Music


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Public Domain 589px-Attributed_to_Carel_Fabritius_002

Attributed to Carel Fabritius

“Peace on Earth, good will toward men.”  Wishing you all a joyful and blessed Christmas.


'Adoration of the Shepherds' 1622 by Gerard van Honthorst    HIGH RESOLUTION.     Gerard van Honthorst [Dutch Golden Age painter 1592 – 1656]  Oil on canvas  Wallraf-Richartz-Museum       	           	 	     	         	            HIGH RESOLUTION. Gerard van Hont...

Gerard van Homthorst

BAROCCI, Federico Fiori    Italian painter (b. 1526, Urbino, d. 1612, Urbino)    The Adoration of the Magi  1561-63  Black chalk, pen and brush on blue paper, 293 x 209 mm  Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Federico Fiori

Public Domain 507px-Stella_-_The_Adoration_of_the_Shepherds_-_Walters_371045

Walters – Adoration of the Shepherds

Public Domain Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_L'adoration_des_Mages

Rubens – Adoration of the Magi

Public Domain Raphaels_Geburt (2)

Raphael Gebhurt

Holy Family Late 1750s Tiepolo, Giovanni Battista more Chalk (black), pen and ink, wash on paper

Giovanni Battista

Maathias Stom – The Holy Family


Rembrandt, The Holy Family, or The Carpenter’s Household, 1640, Musée du Louvre, Paris, oil on canvas, 41 x 34 cm

Rembrandt – The Holy Family

Rembrandt Drawing 286.jpg

Rembrandt – drawing of the Holy Family



“Truth & Love Wins” Redux


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Sunrise with Sea Monsters by Joseph Mallord William Turner • c. 1845 • oil on canvas • Tate Britain

Sunrise with Sea Monsters by JMW Turner

I am happy to report that at least in one very narrow slice of life, truth and love has indeed won. If you read my original post, the whole thing started with me ruminating about a nasty custody battle, and my fervent hope that “truth and love” would win in the end. It did. The judge was not persuaded by all the lies (easily proven) that were slung against my son, and the eventually ruling favored him, while benefiting the mother as well. A win-win, as I see it, and hope that she does too.

On the political front, I’m still hopeful that “truth and love” will win in the end, and there is evidence that this is bearing true.

But the problem with “winning” is that it splits us all into two camps: the winners and the losers. And when that happens, no one really wins, at least for long. The pendulum will keep swinging back and forth between the two camps.

In reality, truth and loves “wins” only when there are no losers and winners, when there is only the common good. As a nation we seemed to have moved far away from that once common goal. In fact, the whole notion of a “common good” seems to be in ill repute.

In the struggle between rugged individualism and the common good, a struggle which gave rise to our nation, rugged individualism seems to be winning out. “Rugged individualism” even sounds way cooler than the tepid “common good.” Who wants to be “common,” after all?  Or “good”?

During an earlier age of Enlightenment and Reformation, “the common good” was a revolutionary idea:

Saint Thomas Aquinas held “the common good” (bonum commune, in Latin) to be the end of law and government; John Locke declared that “the peace, safety, and public good of the people” are the ends of political society, and further argued that “the well being of the people shall be the supreme law”; David Hume contended that “social conventions” are adopted and given moral support in virtue of the fact that they serve the “public” or “common” interest; James Madison wrote of the “public,” “common,” or “general” good as closely tied with justice and declared that justice is the end of government and civil society; and Jean-Jacques Rousseau understood “the common good” (le bien commun, in French) to be the object of a society’s general will and the highest end pursued by government.

The “common good” and ‘”good government” were one in the same:

Though these thinkers differed significantly in their views of what the common good consists in, as well as over what the state should do to promote it, they nonetheless agreed that the common good is the end of government, that it is a good of all the citizens, and that no government should become the “perverted servant of special interests,”[10] whether these special interests be understood as Aristotle’s “interest of the rulers,” Locke’s “private good,” Hume’s and Madison’s “interested factions,” or Rousseau’s “particular wills.” Wikipedia  

But we live in troubled times and good ideas cycle in and out of favor. Self interest and serving special interests seem to be winning the day. And so there will be no peace.

Jane Addams, the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1831 wisely cautioned: “The  good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”

I’m hoping for the sake of peace in my family, and our nation, that a “common good” will be secured for all of us.


Swept Away by the Music of Pat Metheny


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Thomas Moran (1837 – 1926) originally from Bolton, England was an American painter and printmaker of the Hudson River School in New York    1873+Mary's+Veil,+A+Waterfall+in+Utah+oil+on+board+30.2+x+17.8+cm.jpg (621×1080)

Thomas Moran (1837 – 1926) Mary’s Veil, Utah

I first fell in love with Pat Metheny’s music when listening his seminal album “As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls.” I couldn’t agree more Carter B. Horsley in The City Review:

“As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls,” [is] perhaps the most important jazz recording of the past 15 years or so and on a par, in terms of historical importance, with John Coltrane’s, “My Favorite Things,” and some of the great Miles Davis and Charlie Parker classics, which is to say it is a masterpiece.

The title track of the album is a mysterious 20-minute-and-42-second excursion into sound effects that seems to turn a playground into a stadium and has riveting interruptions of great authority followed by digital narration, literally, interspersed with glorious crescendos and great anthemic sweeps of emotion. What is most extraordinary is that the incredible music is performed by just four individuals, one of whom was Nana Vasconceles, a Brazilian percussionist.

I used to listen to this CD on my way home from Cal Poly University as a graduate student, my mind still reeling from all I was reading, weaving together the poetry of  Whitman, Wallace Stevens and Emily Dickinson with the transcendentalism of Emerson and deconstruction of Derrida, Lacan’s Mirror Stage and Bohm’s Implicate Order. Seeing how all these insights and ideas flow into and out of each other, creating a rich tapestry of potentiality. Each seemed to sing to the other, play and dance, tickle and tease. Somehow it was all related. At some deep level it all made sense.

Within that fertile mindframe as the sun melted into the sea and the ribbon of highway curled along the coast, I let myself be swept away by Metheny’s music. The title track starts off so softly you can barely hear it. Soon you make out distant voices, children’s laughter, like some dream you had of childhood long ago. This soft rambling mixture of ambient sounds and gentle waves eventually turns into something else, recreating itself into a rich exotic sound experience, what my granddaughter calls “China music” when I play it for her. This too breaks apart into something else as the music reinvents itself. Now we are zinging through interstellar space with weird pings and synthesized sounds carrying us along as the night darkens. Then the music mellows and rises, mellows and rises, moving slowly, steadily, over and over until it sweeps into a  an ecstatic crescendo. This too mutates into something else, low slow rumbles, voices chanting code, a strain of conversation too low to make out, then laughter, children calling to one another, as if we’ve taken a journey through time and space and back again. To where it all began.

I wish I could find a video recording of this track to share here, but all that seems available is a live performance, which is substantially different from the CD recording I fell in love with and, for me, does not capture the richness and nuance of the original.

But I will share here another Metheny favorite which showcases the beautiful permutations of his music and especially his masterful handling of the listeners expectations as his music rises and falls, rises and falls, gathering momentum until you feel you are in the hands of a very experienced lover who is taking you slowly to new heights of pleasure, then backing away and building again, over and over, until finally it comes: What you’ve been waiting for, expecting, at long last. It washes over you and carries you away and afterwards you feel sublimely satisfied. I always turn the sound up in those final moments as it nears the climax to intensify the experience.

To feel that extraordinary effect there must be no distance between you and the music. You must allow yourself be carried away, give yourself over completely to it. As you must immerse yourself in any great work of art to truly experience all it has to offer.

This one is called “The Truth Will Always Be.” Enjoy.




On Mist & Fog, Endless Emerging Forms


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Don Hong-Oai's mystical and delicately toned sepia landscapes using the Chinese ''pictorial'' style of layering several negatives to compose a scene.

By Don Hong-Oai

I’ve long been drawn to images of fog and mist.  Part of it is the feel for the ephemeral and mysterious, things half formed, half hidden.  Emerging from a soft nebulous background but not fully formed.

Things caught in a state of transition, in the midst of becoming what is or could be.  Or slowly dissolving back into mere mist or shadow, what was or could have been.


Some of my fascination has to do with the contrast between the softness and starkness of the images, how things are reduced to their elemental forms the way black and white photos will do.

All but the starkest, darkest trunks and branches revealed while the fog swallows the rest.  All that’s left is the essential, the finely sculpted, restrained and elegant.

Bare branches naked and exposed, lifted in soft white hands

IMG_3138I think images of mist and fog speak to me because they ring true.  They reveal in stark and dreamy notes how ephemeral it all is, this life we live, the forms and forces of nature. All in flux, in constant motion, emerging and dissolving over and over, without end.

The first law of thermodynamics states how energy changes from one form to another, but never disappears.

The new fourth law proposed by some scientists is still uncertain, but moving toward the emergent, a law of motion where things are constantly pushed to the edge of chaos and the brink of “perpetual novelty,” an immense field of endless potentiality.

I see that too in these photos.

At noon in full summer, in the bright sunshine, with all our leaves shimmering, richly detailed, brimming lushly, dripping with  color, we hold life firmly in hand, our hearts aching with joy, with the pure bliss of being, and we think we will last forever.



But when the day is in transition, at dawn or dusk, emerging from darkness or drifting toward it, when mist or fog hides all but the faint essential lines of life, we see a starker and at the same time softer reality.  But just as beautiful, and just as enduring.

For what could be more constant and eternal than the fleeting?

Or that which emerges, fragile and half-formed, from the fertile wombs of earth and stars, seas and seeds, dreams and desires and the lusts of ages that brought us all to the brink of being.


[Adapted from a 2012 post]


Three Favorite Art Studios


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Deb 19

I. My art “home away from home”

Nearly every week I come to paint with friends at this art studio, tucked away in the vineyards of Paso Robles. My friend Deb had it built years ago. I met her and Paula when we took a pastel class together two years ago. Since then, it’s become my art “home away from home.” We sit and paint and laugh and chat and encourage each other. It’s been a blessing to have such friends in my life.

Deb 16

Debs art studio 1

Debs art studio 7

Debs art studio 8

Debs art studio 5

II. Terrill Welch’s Art Studio

Terrill’s artwork and studio has been an inspiration to me since I first met her over five years ago when I began blogging. I loved the way she talked about her work and her creative process on her blog at Creative Potager. And I loved the charming space that she worked in and her beautiful surroundings on Mayne Island in British Columbia

She created her own U-Tube video of her home art studio which I am happy to share here. Recently she opened her own art gallery to showcase her artwork.



III. Kelly Rae Robert’s “Soul Shine” Art Studio

I’ve never met Kelly, but I fell in love with the studio she shared with three other women when I was searching for inspirations for my own studio. I love the color, the whimsy, and all the creative ways of organizing and storing art supplies.

Her website and blog are full of lots of interesting and inspiring articles and podcasts. You can take a tour of her “Soul Shine” studio here. She has since moved on and tours of her new studios can be found here.

What inspires you in your work? Do you have any favorite art studios or writing spaces that inspire you to create?


Boats & Blessings, Poems by Clifton and Collins


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Odilon Redon Yellow Sail, Final Journey, Soul Guardians

May you and your loved ones, near and far, have a Blessed Thanksgiving.

blessing the boats

(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

— From Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000.

The Dead


The dead are always looking down on us, they say.
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.
They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a long afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them,
which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.
— From Sailing Alone Around the Room. (Random House September 17th 2002)

Art by Odilon Redon, “Final Journey, Soul Guardians”


“Truth and Love Wins”


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J.M.W. Turner - Angel Standing in a Storm

J.M.W. Turner – Angel Standing in a Storm

This has become my mantra in recent months: ‘Truth and Love wins.”

It’s what gets me through the day when I would despair against the chaotic events unfolding in our national and world affairs. And on the home front as well, as my son faces a vicious custody battle. It’s what boosts my spirits and keeps me on a steady course moving forward.

I’m a firm believer in that “the truth will out,” that lies will eventually be exposed and turn against the liar. That “the truth will set you free,” freeing not only the one lied about, but the one who lies as well.

I also firmly believe that “love trumps hate,” that it outlasts hate and will win the day in the end.

I’ve been heartened to see on the front pages of our news outlets how the truth about those who have committed crimes, whether through political intrigue or money laundering or sexual assault, has come out into the open. Only when lies and secret crimes have been uncovered will justice and healing begin.

It bears out Martin Luther King’s claim that “the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.” Truth wins. Love wins. In the end.

But in the middle of the fray, all is gray and murky.

When we are in the midst of the battle, feeling attacked, maligned, unjustly persecuted; when our safety and future are threatened; when fear and anger, the desire to retaliate, to hate back, to feel a gleeful satisfaction at another’s downfall, when all this takes over our thoughts, we soon realize that we’re caught up in the same tangled web we’ve sworn to fight against.

That’s how lies and hate work, how they turn would-be champions of love into haters themselves. A hater of the haters.

Allowing these feelings go unchallenged perpetuates the very thing we would fight against. It divides the world into us and them, and no matter which side we stand on in that battle, we are all losers.

We have to watch our thoughts and guard our hearts so carefully, if we would not be pulled inside out and find that we are fighting on the side of hate ourselves, against those we feel have done us wrong or hurt our loved ones.

We all know this. But it’s hard not to hate the haters. What could we possibly find to love in them?

I found something that helps me with this. I was told: “You don’t have to love them. You just have to love. You watch your thought and guard your heart so only love enters.

In that frame of mind, feeling compassion for the hater comes naturally. How could we not feel compassion for someone who seems so helpless to fight against a hatred that hurts them far more than the one it’s directed against?

In that frame of mind, I can turn that gleeful sense of self-righteousness into simply gratitude for good. Gratitude for the fact that the lie is exposed, the crime revealed, justice is done, and now reformation and healing can take place.

What I’m learning is that none of us are spared of the temptation to hate, to be greedy or deceitful or dishonest for what we see as a “righteous cause.”

What I’m learning is that the warfare with “evil” as we see it is not really fought on the outside with the other. It’s all on the inside, with ourselves, our own thoughts, our own hearts. That’s where the battle against hate and deceit is fought and won.

These lessons are not new. They are as old as time The wise among us have been telling us forever to “love our enemies,” to “turn the other cheek,” to “be the change we want to see in the world.”

It sounds simplistic and idealistic until we actually try to do it. Then we discover it’s the most difficult war we will ever have to wage, right in our own hearts.

And we also discover what Martin Luther King meant when he said:

“I have decided to stick to love. . . Hate is too great a burden to bear.”



Artists & Writers in Their Studios


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"Calder at Home The Joyous Environment of Alexander Calder" by Pedro Guerreo

Art studio of Alexander Calder

I’ve been collecting images of artist studios and writing spaces as inspiration for creating my own art/writing workspace. Some of these images are of famous artists and writers. It’s been so interesting to match the creative mind with the space that inspires it. Most of the creative spaces that have been most inspiring to me belong to people who are not famous, or at least unknown to me, and perhaps I’ll share those another time.

Here I’ve matched the spaces with famous quotes from the inhabitants. See if you can guess who they are. If you can’t, the names are listed below.

  1. “With age art and life grow together.” 

"With age art and life grow together."  ---George Braque

2. “I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me.”

Matisse, paper cutting. We both love Matisse, especially the cut paper works of his latter days. I actually made two quilts based on those artworks.

3. “My library is an archive of longings.”

40 Inspiring Workspaces Of The Famously Creative

4. “My fan mail is enormous. Everyone is under six.”

Alexander Calder in his studio. I want those rugs!

5. “All sorrows can be borne if you can put them into a story.”

Danish author Karen Blixen (1885-1962) at her desk in Rungstedlund | Lindequist

6. “I think of my studio as a vegetable garden, where things follow their natural course. They grow, they ripen. You have to graft. You have to water.”

Joan Miró, Son Abrines, 1978, Photo Jean Marie del Moral

7. “I believe in deeply ordered chaos.”

Francis Bacon in his Studio 1977

8. “What you do when you paint, you take a brush full of paint, get paint on the picture, and you have faith.”

Willem de Kooning by Thomas Hoepker

9. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Jack London famous author desk, famous writing desks, writers at work, photos of writers

10. “Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”

E eu que era tudo ou nada ao meio-dia: FRIDA KAHLO - VIVA LA VIDA

11. “Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?”

writer hc-annie-dillard-born-april-30-1945-20130225 Getty Images July 1987

12. “In the arts, as in life, everything is possible provided it is based on love.”

Marc Chagall in his studio, 1955. Photo by Mark Shaw

Artists and writers: 1-George Braque, 2-Henri Matisse, 3-Susan Sontag, 4-Alexander Calder, 5-Karen Blixen, 6-Joan Miro, 7-Francis Bacon, 8-Willem de Kooning, 9-Jack London, 10-Frida Kahlo, 11-Annie Dillard, 12-Marc Chagall




Hauntings, Ghosts, & Demons I Have Known


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As Halloween draws near, I like to repost a series of true life tales about the hauntings, ghosts, and demons I experienced growing up, and later when I had children of my own.

While I don’t ”intellectually” believe in ghosts and the supernatural, I cannot deny that the physical and psychic phenomena which I and so many others–-indeed, all known cultures and societies–-have laid claim to, are “real.” The reality they seem to have is unexplained, often unverifiable, and usually fleeting and ephemeral. And yet they persist in haunting humanity.

Throughout history, people whom we usually credit with intelligence and integrity have reported ghostly experiences, among them the psychologist Carl Jung, President Theodore Roosevelt, and Sir Winston Churchill, as well as a host of current well-known celebrities, such as Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, and Halle Berry.

I can neither explain, verify, nor dismiss the reality of the experiences that I relate here. I can only state that these things occurred as I remember them, or as others I trust related them to me. And most were witnessed by more than one person.

You can read the full series of ghost stories at the links below. I’ve included excerpts from each. Enjoy!

Every night after my mother heard my prayers and tucked me into bed, I would pull the covers tight over my head and stay there until I fell asleep. I knew somehow that no harm would come to me if I followed this ritual. And no harm ever did come to me.

I might well have been terrified had I heard what my parents heard at night as they slept in the room below mine.

We had already decided to move when my mother entered the small room upstairs that had been used for storage because it was “too cold” for human habitation. She was trying to move boxes out of the room when something unseen attacked her.  It threw her to the floor and pinned her down so that she could not move. All she could do was scream for help.

That night my mother woke from an extremely vivid dream where Margaret (her mother-in-law) had come to her weeping so hard she could not speak. She hung onto my mother so tightly it scared her. It felt as if Margaret was trying to climb inside her body and she had to fight her off. The next morning my mother . . .  discovered that Margaret had died that night. 

Shortly after moving in, I became increasingly afraid to be alone in the house. I was okay when Dale was at home. But as soon as he left for work, a creepy feeling overwhelmed me. As I walked through the house I was aware of something sinister and malicious watching me. It was as if the walls had eyes that followed me everywhere. As if I was living in the belly of the Beast.

Have you ever awoken from sleep to find yourself paralyzed with fear as if something dark and evil sitting on your chest has pinned you down? You try to scream or move, but find that you cannot. You are overcome with terror. It’s more common than you think. And it happened to me several times.

It was like a dark, evil twin had taken over me, and I was as horrified as my little friend by what was happening . . . I like to think now that it was that sad, angry, stalking presence that haunted our house that tried, unsuccessfully, to inhabit me . . . I had a taste of what true evil feels like, with all its sense of pleasure and power, and I did not like it. 

So are the ghosts, demons, and other supernatural beings that have haunted humans through the centuries, that make brief appearances and then disappear, “real”? I do not know, and I’m not sure if it even matters. They are real enough to those who experience them, as least while they are experiencing them, and then afterwards, one wonders.

Each of us make but brief ghostly appearances in this world we call real. We apparently spring from nearly nothing–-a few multiplying cells, and then disappear into nothing as our bodies disintegrate after a short visitation that can last a few days or a few decades. Are we “real”?

I’d loved to hear your ghost stories. Have you had any brushings with the supernatural?