Crows, and Growing

Cousins: Cathy and Meg, 2009


This email from my cousin, Meg Kollock Hall, arrived rather quietly after I wrote of my sadness about the approaching departure of my daughter, who leaves for college next week. It touched me so deeply I asked her permission to share it with you here. I’m so glad she said yes.



I just finished reading your latest entry. I feel your ache.

Houstoun was a child at 12 and miraculously a young adult less than a year later. I thought he would never leave the stage where he put his head under my shirt when he was shy.

I know he will one day leave this nest on Parkway.

Our summers are so different than the ones I knew as a child. It is our busy time of year. We smoosh in fun at the beginning and the end, but in the middle we dash around…all the while Houstoun is growing up …I have been thinking a lot about how to gracefully move to the next step in our relationship. I know it is harder for me than him.

During this crazy time, the crows have been patient ….we don’t have regular left overs. We tend to eat out when we can since I don’t like to cook after a long day of rental renovation. They have been leaving feathers for me. Long, silky, black….but more recently soft, downy ones.

I can’t help but think of your interpretation of feathers. Those little tufts of fluff remind me to be kind to myself and those I love.

Thanks for sharing even when it hurts.





Remembering Tiger

I will always remember it, the look she had when she spotted what I had not been able to see. There he is, Mom, she said, there.

She turned to me desperate, her face stricken.

Is he dead, Mom? Is he?

We’d been looking for that old cat since the night he walked away, out the front door, down the porch steps, up the brick walk in front of our house. He paused ever so briefly to look over his shoulder at me. Then he sauntered off.

What a gift it was I didn’t realize that was our goodbye.

He eventually made his way to a shady spot just at the base of our driveway, curling up beneath the azaleas. It was an area with a small clearing; the opening was sizable enough that he could easily see out and we could see in. And still I didn’t find him, in spite of the thousand trips Colleen and I made looking for him, looking high and low, calling out his name. But then Eliza came home, and she spotted him.

I think of Tiger every time I see those shrubs, pray that his last hours spent in that spot were peaceful, hope that he knows how much we miss him. I’ve watched them with particular interest this Spring as they have leafed out, so healthy and full of buds they look as if they will—quite literally—explode.

Except for the little Tiger cave, that is, which bloomed so early, so significantly, that the heavy branches dropped to the ground and covered its opening with glorious white blossoms.

Tiger’s opening, now covered in white blossoms

How happy I am for this gift of Spring, this comforting sign, this memory.

we miss you, big tiger.

Day 5: When Joy Comes Quiet

On grace, I am no real expert. But what I do know is that it arrives unannounced, beautiful and unexpected.

True to form it surprised me last week when I made another unplanned trip South. Grace was there in the long stories from my Dad about his days in Alaska (how horrible that must have been for Mother, he said); the years spent with Uncle Jack and Aunt Marsha at Locust Hill in Lynchburg; and the Big Story—his boyhood memories of living in Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Dad was playing army with his friend, John James Jackie Mook, when Grandmother Rigg called him to come home immediately!) Grace was there at night when I made my way back to the Big House, all alone but for my sweet dog, Little Bit, a most perfect companion. Grace was there in the gift of time. Time to make this slow, gentle journey through Advent, this time of preparation. And surely grace was there in this magnificent scene between the Big House and theirs, a sweeping reminder each time I passed by that the world is filled with darkness and light, sorrow and hope, struggle and peace.

And joy. As I learned in James, there is always, always, joy.

Can you see it all there, as I do?


Count it all joy, my brethren.

James 1:2

30 Days of Joy 

Coming Home

I made the long drive home both exhausted and in an emotional search for the weekend’s blessings. I’d shortened my trip by a day and a half to get a step ahead of Tropical Storm Beryl, which was expected to bear down on the exact 250 miles of my drive.

And thus I pulled into my own driveway with the luxury of some “found” time. I parked, then wandered into the back yard without unlocking the side porch door.

Let’s see if those baby eagles happen to be about, I said to my traveling companion, my sweet little dog, Little Bit.

And sure enough, there across the pond in a tree, was one of the babies. But I didn’t gaze at the Eagle long because this caught my eye.

I knew without thinking just what was awaiting me there in the yard. A gigantic feather—at more than a foot long, by far the biggest I have ever found.

A great big heavenly reminder:

I got you girl.

I exhaled, then started to unload the car.

7. Then she said …

So this is what my friend, Anne Creed, had to say about my questioning of God’s wisdom in bombarding us with pollen during the most pleasant of months:

I don’t know, Cathy. I like the relentlessness of pollen. I like how I find it under my car hood in December, a reminder of springs past and springs to come. I love to watch clouds of it blow from pine trees. Pollen says: Pay Attention! And that nothing beautiful comes on its own. I like how it quickly falls, even within an hour, and keeps covering our cars, our porches, our dogs. I like the assault of all that goodness that is spring and its promise that you really can start over. Who but God would say, ‘I’ll dust them all with yellow, and make them ask why.’ There is a glory in pollen. Uncover your porch and sit (then cover back up again) and wonder.


Vickie Quigg, my dear friend from childhood, wrote this about Starry Starry Night:

I asked our good friend, Bill Womble, why he thought so many of us were posting sky photos. He answered, ‘Because it’s always available and right outside your door? Doesn’t run away, move suddenly or get impatient? Is versatile and dynamic, rife with ever-changing texture, color and brightness? Harbors the simplest of beauty up to the most complex mysteries of the universe?’

Yep, I think that’s it.



From Jeff Amberg, a friend and a most talented photographer, on My Soul-Stirring Aha post on Brene Brown’s Ted Talk On Vulnerability:

Thanks Cathy ~ The best 20 minutes this week. A few years ago I realized how important surrender is, to the pressures, and just let the spirit be the guide. This has changed my whole outlook. Now this. A video that makes so much sense it’s scary, scary in a good way. It’s like the next level of letting go, total surrender and permission to be who you are, not who you ain’t.



Upon reading about my recent fall, the wonderful Julie Marr commented:

C – sending you a huge typewritten hug after the fact! I’m so sorry about the fall and thankful that you were wrapped in tenderness afterward. You are loved!!!


I love writing this blog, that’s for sure. I especially love it when someone reads something that moves them and they make a Facebook comment, jot off an email to me, write back via the comments section, make mention when we chat.

It’s then I am reminded that often—very, very often—the real grace in my day comes from friends like you. For that, I offer a prayer of thanks.