Mary Beth Writes

Photo is from a hike we took this summer.


Today is the birthday of my first child. She sent a photo of herself this morning with her two kids. She takes them on a “nature walk” (in Chicago) every morning, usually before 8AM. One of the things they do is walk on an overpass where they can wave at the CTA trains coming down the tracks beneath them. Often, she says, the train engineers will wave back at her kiddos.

Speaking of trains..We were, weren’t we? I noticed this morning that two photos had disappeared from my last post. I don’t know why, this never happened before. I put them back. If you didn’t see Franc’s Japanese raked sand and Len’s ruffled wood – go back to Wednesday’s post and look. Kinda cool.

We are a week from Christmas. You have been emailing photos to me of light in your world. I have been posting your photos, some of mine, writing this and that.

Do I know exactly what we are doing here? Nah, but I like the ‘mission’ of stepping outside my own world to see who is out there and who will wave back. I check for comments every few hours after I post something and your remarks are definitely light for me.

This year’s Christmas will be an odd duck kind of holiday. We aren’t getting together in big groups with family and friends (at least you better not!). So what is this “most wonderful day of the year” when it’s just you, maybe your immediate family, maybe your cat or pup or weasel?

What will we have when we don’t have what we always have?

What lies beneath “what we always do”?

I was talking about this with a friend. Last year she had a house full of adult children plus their partners. It was wonderful … and she barely left the kitchen in two days. This year they will still all zoom, but she is in her quiet home with just one son who might be at work that day – and she is not dreading it.

Not having to shop-till-we-drop, cook, bake, set a fancy table, clear it all up and then do it again – this is an appealing silver lining for many of us.

What will it be like to have time to go for a walk or take a nap? What are we celebrating anyhow? Is the religious meaning enough? What does it mean to approach a holiday that is not overwhelming - but will be ours anyways?

What are you looking for? What are you feeling peaceful about remembering? Will you be sad or relieved? What is the treat you still need to cook or find to eat?

I’m going to keep looking for light. The light that is out there. The light in the photos you send to me. The light in some of the news we are hearing. The light that shines where people are angry and generous, determined and kind.



Photo by Kelsie, granddaughter of Judy. Light on ducks.

"I don’t have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks." Maeve Binchy

"An optimist is someone who figures that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s the bluebird of happiness." Robert Breault.


Judy Saunders

“To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wildflower.” William Blake.

I am like a drop of water on a rock. After drip, drip, dripping in the same place, I begin to leave a mark, and I leave my mark in many people’s hearts. Rigoberta Menchu


 Jennifer Beiriger

You had me several years ago when I was still quite naive
Well you said that we made such a pretty pair and that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved
And one of them was me
I had some dreams they were clouds in my coffee clouds in my coffee and
You're so vain.  Carly Simon

“The humble Cumulus humilis - never hurt a soul.”
― Gavin Pretor-Pinney, The Cloudspotter's Guide

Jennifer Beiriger

“One day I was counting the cats and I absent-mindedly counted myself.”
― Bobbie Ann Mason, Shiloh and Other Stories


 Karen Poe

“My Sunday school teachers had turned Bible narrative into children's fables. They talked about Noah and the ark because the story had animals in it. They failed to mention that this was when God massacred all of humanity.”
― Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

“Secrets press inside a person. They press the way water presses at a dam. The secrets and the water, they both want to get out.”
― Franny Billingsley, Chime

I took this photo in New Brunswick, Canada. We were driving through the outer bands of Hurricane Dorian. The car was hydroplaning on a traffic-less highway through an endless forest. We found a town on the map, drove several miles off the highway to find it, found this Tim Horton’s and never got out of our car. We used their Wi-Fi to book a motel in the next town big enough to have one.

“Bran thought about it. 'Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?'
'That is the only time a man can be brave,' his father told him.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones


Jennifer Beiriger

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

 Inhale and hold the evening in your lungs.”

― Sebastian Faulks, Engleby






Another winner! I do remember seeing Lens ruffled wood and Franc’s sand. Strange. I guess I need to start thinking about Christmas. Think I am in denial.
Mary Beth's picture

You are in denial.. Cleopatra lived on de Nile. And that about hits the nail on the head.

As always, another wonderful, thought-provoking and heartfelt post. I love your concept of “looking for the light.” I was equally enchanted by all the quotes and photos that followed your essay. You’re a breath of fresh air.
Mary Beth's picture

To people who don't know - I should do a better job of explaining you, Pat Taub, than right here. But let's start here. Pat is the empress of the Facebook page Women's Older Wisdom. As in, WOW. Anyone at all, woman or man, is welcome to request to join her page. Wonderful quotes, pass-alongs, short essays, art, and beauty - all from and about older women. And Pat, thank you for your comment!

Thank you!!!!
Mary Beth's picture


Gorgeous photos and words!
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks. If you get bored this week (do you ever get bored? I doubt it), send a few more of your lovely photos. Some of us would love some of your pix of Mexico, of birds, of your garden. Of your walk on the Oak Leaf Trail.

This year has been a game changer for most of us... Trying to nurture a budding relationship with Mr. B after an eleven year dry spell and being body-slammed by this Covid Epidemic was not how we had planned this out ( ¿best laid plans? )... Being apart for Turkey Day was bad enough for two people expecting to celebrate and cook together for our first year of holiday's together... Now Xmas is a week away and we are being denied that holiday as well... My morning greeting to Mr. B said "I'm really hating this year and all it's disappointments, the only bright light in this has been you"... His response was "Having this book to work on has helped me get through this God-Awful pandemic and it's impact on all of us. You're a bright light, too, during a solar eclipse"... Maybe this new year will bring a brighter light for all of us... let's hope so...
Mary Beth's picture

What a year to meet and fall into a relationship with another person. Someday...

Your posts bring light. Thank you. Patricia

Hey Mary Beth! Your name popped into my head a couple of months ago (as it has done often in my musings of years past), and I googled you and found your webpage. I have been SO enjoying hearing your voice again through your writing. It takes me back to the Chicago "car pooling to Waldorf "days, and being in your home talking while the kids played - always such a warm memory. Anyway - I love reading your references to the kids, and your life. I still remember the first time we met when M was born, we were at the birthing center for Paul's 3 day post check, and Len came out of the room to ask if we'd take a family picture moments after M had arrived. You told me you had ordered pizza to be delivered to the birthing center! Your posts are another way to feel connected to the everyday moments that, if we pay attention, connects us to the eternal thread that runs through the universe. I'd love to connect with you again - perhaps even get together when things are less COVID-y.
Mary Beth's picture

I sent you an email.. and wow! yes! I remember those days. (I'd forgotten about the pizza at the birthing center..) Thanks for looking me up. Lovely to come to this on a gray morning.

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Quarantine Diary #507 YES #507!

Didn’t I announce back in March that my Quarantine Diary was done?

Argh. Never say never.

I assumed after two vaccines it was okay to meander the world as long as we are mindful of kids and people with fragile immune systems. So put on the mask in public places and don’t be overtly stupid.

Making Memories?

This morning the Washington Post has an article about how we make memories. Interestingly, just because we say we are “making memories” doesn’t mean we are. Most little kids will not start making many memories until they are around age 8. Memories get stuck in our mind if they involve several senses and we are going slow enough to pay attention. If one WANTS to remember something, stop paying attention to everything else that is going on, focus in on the thing you care about using more than one sense. Recall it again later. Deep sleep on it overnight and good luck with that.

Three Things & One Announcement 7/16/2021

Thinking Outside the Box: 

Len once told me this WWII story. The first generation of bomber raids from England to Germany resulted in a terrifying number of bomber planes being shot down. Experts carefully examined the returning planes to create detailed reports of the bullet holes as they tried to understand how to reinforce the planes to make them safer.

Three Things 7/7/2021

Israel’s Health Ministry this week announced that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — one of the world’s most effective shots — was offering only 64 percent protection against infection and symptomatic illness caused by the delta variant.

The vaccine was still highly effective at preventing severe illness and death, the ministry said.

(I read this in the Washington Post, though it’s other places also.)

7/5/2021 Three Things (Don’t miss Highland Mitzi)

Last year was the Covid quarantine so most of us didn’t do very much over the 4th of July holiday.

This year, with half Americans now vaccinated there’s more freedom to do things and be with people.

Three Things (Well, Four) 7/1/2021

Bill Cosby is out of prison on a technicality. The judge said 40-year-old Britney Spear still can’t run her own life. Yesterday 88-year-old war criminal* Donald Rumsfeld died comfortably in his bed.

My gut is twisting. How are you? Power, injustice, and money still row the boat that we’re all on. This nation is playing whack-a-mole with justice, hope, and human rights. It feels ominous. I thought I would just mention this in case you thought it was just you that felt assaulted this morning.


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