Mary Beth Writes


This photo is by my friend Jennifer Beiriger. (I don’t think Jennifer knows this but I can’t spell her name. My brain will not learn and keep the correct spelling of Beiriger so I have it on a post-it note next to my desk. It’s been there a couple years.)

Ebbing late afternoon light can break your heart.

The first thing a newborn sees is light. The last thing a dying person seems to see is a glorious rosy light opening in their brain as they leave. 

Robert Frost’s “Choose Something Like a Star”

This is the whole poem:  Click here. 

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud –
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.

So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

This poem, set to beautiful music by Randall Thompson: Click here.


Joan Didion died today.

Len and I were beginning to date by which I mean we were beginning to realize there was another person in the world who “got” us.  I was interested in his stories; he was interested in mine.  It’s pretty heady, those early days of finding your person.

Len would stop after work on Thursdays to buy and then bring to me the NYT because on Thursdays they featured their “Hers” columns; essays written by women. Maybe some of you remember it.

One of the first “Hers” columns I read was by Joan Didion. Everything she said was, to me, like someone giving me the words for my own life. She cared about things. She was often depressed. She noticed details. She despised hypocrisy even as she recognized it in herself. She managed the looming grief and overwhelmingness of life by writing about it.

Joan Didion was the first woman to show me that a woman could write about what she thought about. That saying things aloud in an essay gives a person a path into and through their life.

I have not read her "Year of Living Magically." I'm not brave enough yet to read about losing her daughter and her husband. Have you read it?

Quotes by Joan Didion:

“I don't know what I think until I write it down.”

“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”

“I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”

“You have to pick the places you don't walk away from.”

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

Since I wrote yesterday that we are not getting together with our family on Christmas, we've heard from two more families who’ve made the same decision.

One of my daughters works in downtown Chicago. She just sent this photo taken from her office window. “This is why omicron is spreading.”


How are you doing? 


Thanks for sharing the poem and the music. I’d never heard of it and really enjoyed listening to it just now. Merry Christmas anyway!!!
Mary Beth's picture

I learned this song as the quietest alto in the high school choir - but all these years later these words and phrases till come back to me. What inspires us when we are young often inspires us all our lives.

My niece and I made cinnamon rolls today. I told her about the special times that you made and delivered them for a very modest fee. She said she would charge $25. For a pan. After cleaning up the kitchen I didn’t think that would be enough. I read The Year of Magical Thinking. I thought it was hard to believe, but after speaking to my mom and some others that had experienced a sudden death of a love one, I changed my mind. It was worth reading. I think you could handle it.
Mary Beth's picture

If anyone wants a dozen cinnamon rolls for $50 that we will give to refugees, I'm in - in January. Thanks for telling her about them. those were busy days!

Thank you for sharing this poem. I will share it with my family . such a perfect sentiment for these times.
Mary Beth's picture

You could probably get the music on the internet and play it on the piano. It's haunting.

I have not read "The year of Living Magically." I feel I'm ready now. My daughter however, read it, and other of Didion's books as a way to cope with the grief of loosing her dad. Didion is one of her heroes. She was grief stricken yesterday. Merry Christmas to you and yours. Thank you always, Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

Its remark-able how we warn each other of beautiful artworks that might trigger each other. Wishing you a sweet day.

"Ebbing late afternoon light can break your heart." I read that and felt like I've known that in my soul forever but have never formed the thoughts or words to convey it. Thank you.
Mary Beth's picture

Thank you. Len and I were super tempted to buy a house once that was $50,000 more than we wanted to pay, and 30 miles from anything, because the late afternoon light from the upstairs window was that beautiful.

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GNTL - So Many Words!


Grownups Noticing Their Lives - Words!

The month of May might have been above my paygrade. I contributed to a weeks-long writing project in our congregation. I met friends more often than usual to talk and catch up. Two grandkids came for a sleepover last week. Our daughter and her little dog spent last Friday with us. Saturday another grandkid slept over.

GNTL - Kathryn's Garden


Grownups Noticing Their Lives - Kathryn’s Garden

My friend Kathryn sent some beautiful photos of her garden to me this morning, I asked if I could post them here and she said yes. 

Some of you know Kathryn Rouse so you know this is not a garden-come-lately. She’s been building and growing her garden since, I think, the late 1970’s. The bunny in a hurry is a Bill Reid sculpture.

I think Kathryn's photos are the right frame for the poem.

A-Z Observation

5/24/2023   O is for Observation

Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) was a pre-telescope Danish astronomer who looked at the sky more precisely than anyone before him had done. He was obsessively careful about measuring what he saw and he studied the sky every night he could. To accomplish what he wanted he reinvented and fine-tuned the sky-gauging tools of his era – sextant and quadrant.

You may have seen these tools in paintings of old-time sailors. They would hold them up to their face, look at the stars, figure out where they were in the world.

GNTL - Squirrels & Gardens & the Sonoran Desert


Grownups Noticing Their Lives

My garden thrives in ignominy.

Yesterday I posted some frugal things I’ve done lately at the Non-Consumer Advocate website. I do this because the kinds of people who try to be frugal are often (not always) people who I wish would come over here and read my website, too. I don’t write too much about frugal strategies but I write lot about values. We are in the same Venn diagram, right?

GNTL - Walk, Mounds, Spirit

Grownups Noticing Their Lives


The local TV weather folks talked about ‘a pneumonia front’ for two days. I’d never heard the term before but we all know temps can change fast, right? It’s more generally called life on planet earth. Keep a jacket handy if you can.

M is for Various Mom Memories

If you haven’t read yesterday’s comments, go back to read some wonderful memories of peoples’ aunts and “aunts”.

My morning's been packed. Before it was even 8:00 we played facetime dollhouse with our 6-year-old grandkid. She laughed extremely hard at the wedding of wee Kristoff (the Frozen story) to a new clothespin doll from Goodwill, because the groomsman kept standing on the cupcake table. No one could get the groomsman to straighten out so a collie had to run over and bite him.

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