Sharing Books with Kindred Spirits

During the past year I’ve written several posts about camping. I’m not always out in the wilderness with Herb and Buddy. At home, I like to read and hang out with friends. Here I am with my Kindred Spirits Book Club.

Our book club celebrated its third anniversary this month. Some of the members, myself included, are retired teachers. We spent most of our careers teaching children to read. Now we have time to read for our own enjoyment. We’ve discovered that books are much more interesting and memorable if shared with friends. We chose our name from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. In the book, Anne referred to her closest friend, Diana, as a “kindred spirit.”  Together, they shared similar interests.

Our group meets monthly for lunch, usually at one of the members homes. Before the book discussion, we chat about our personal lives. After the dishes are cleared away, we conduct our “business.” During the business meeting we make decisions about future books we plan to read, and set dates to meet. Our group is very accommodating of each other’s suggestions. A member will suggest a book title and author, then tell something about it. We bat the idea around a few minutes, and come to a consensus.

Unlike some book clubs I’ve heard about, we actually do read and discuss our book of the month. After all, teachers are very responsible regarding their homework.  Whoever is leading the discussion drafts specific questions and emails them to the group a few days in advance of our meeting. We’re a serious book club.

I love hearing the members reaction to some of the books we’ve read. Here is a snippet of one discussion.

“Why do so many books seem to be about dysfunctional families?”

“Because if everything was hunky-dory you wouldn’t have a story.”

Over the past three years we’ve read thirty-one books.  At our last meeting I asked the group to share their favorites.

Our number one book is A Land Remembered, by Patrick D. Smith…. The story of three generations of a pioneer family in Florida.

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah …  Two sisters struggle to resist the German occupation of France during World War II.

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde …  A burned out teacher turned foster parent travels the country in an RV.

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore…  The true story of a friendship between a homeless man and an international art dealer.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers …   Retells the biblical love story of Gomer and Hosea in the times of the California Gold Rush.

Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin … a memoir of food, family, and forgiveness.

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg … A comical novel of two women who gather their courage to learn to fly, each in their own way.

Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands by Susan Carol McCarthy ….Historical fiction based on true events of racial violence set in Florida.

The Giver by Louis Lowry … Young adult dystopian novel.

Red Midnight by Ben Mikaelsen … Two children make a daring escape from war-torn Guatamala.

As you can see we love fiction, and our favorite books are those which inspire. Many of these works feature admirable characters who overcome poverty, war, and racism.  A good book is one that you want to read again. Even if you read it as a young adult, and pick it up later in life, you still learn something from it.

Life From Scratch is Sasha Martin’s memoir.  The court declared the author’s mother unfit, and terminated her custody of her children.  Sasha lived away from her mother for most of her teen years. Cooking provided a way for her to remember the family she lost. She includes recipes from her culinary journey around the world in this book.  During the Christmas season our group met to share our own family recipes and memories associated with each dish.

If you enjoy reading inspirational books, and can recommend any titles or authors, leave a comment below.

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”      L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.

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Posing with “Anne” at Green Gables, Cavendish, PEI










Our Twilight Tour of Forks

Forks, Washington seems like any other small American town, except for one unique difference. According to the Chamber of Commerce, 8.5 vampires live in Forks. When I entered the visitor information center I picked up a brochure inviting me to “Experience Twilight” in Forks.  The pamphlet included a self-guided driving tour of sites featured in the Twilight books and films.

I haven’t read the Twilight books, but I did see the first movie with my daughter.  Both are very popular with young adults. The story focuses on a love triangle between a teenage girl (Bella Swan), a vampire (Edward Cullen), and a werewolf (Jacob Black).

During our vacation in northwest Washington, my husband and I thought it might be fun to experience the self-guided tour. Our first stop was Bella’s home on K Street. The pamphlet stated that Bella’s bedroom was on the top floor, but “don’t disturb the residents of the house or the neighbors.”

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As you can see, the real family who lives here took measures to keep Bella’s fans from approaching the house.

We drove to Forks High School, where Bella was a student. I bet scores of giddy teens feel goosebumps in this place where Bella and Edward’s relationship began. How romantic!


We walked into Forks Outfitters, a clothing store where Bella worked. Right next door Bella bought her groceries at the Thriftway. Both of these stores were stocked with Twilight T-shirts. No, I didn’t buy any.


By the time we arrived at the Cullen House, home of the vampire coven, my bubble of excitement burst. Since this building is an inn, we were permitted to walk onto the porch. A sign next to the front door read, “Although this house was the setting for Stephenie Myer’s Twilight books, none of the movies were filmed here.”


I couldn’t believe it. I felt let down. It was uncanny how much the various buildings reminded me of scenes from the first movie.  Still, I thought, Stephenie Myer must have visited Forks to write her books.

No way.  I checked the author’s website, and learned she never visited Forks until after she wrote Twilight. Myer discovered Forks when she searched for the rainiest place in the U.S. on the internet. She thought it would be a good place for vampires to live since it receives so little sun.  The Twilight Tour was really a make believe world invented to represent her imagination.

The whole town played along with this charade.  City Hall was involved. The driving tour directed us to stop by the water department and pick up a free souvenir. An employee gave us a stamped ticket which indicated we paid our water bill. Every person who follows the driving tour interrupts this lady from her job duties numerous times a day to get their free souvenir.


The local Community Hospital had a special parking place for Dr. Cullen, head of the vampire family, and Edward’s father. That means this parking space could not be used by anyone else.  After all, on a slow night Dr. Cullen might be visiting the lab for a snack.


Between Forks and the Quillayutte Indian Reservation, a sign indicated the treaty line between the vampires and the werewolves. This was the territory of Jacob Black and the rest of his werewolf pals.


The Pacific coastline near Forks looks eerie right before sunset. Hmmm… that would be at twilight, wouldn’t it?

I appreciate Stephenie Myer’s creativity.  She successfully captured this setting without visiting it first. Myer’s home at the time was in Arizona, quite a contrast to the rainforests and rocky coast of Washington.

As much as I felt fooled by Forks, I have to give the townspeople credit for capitalizing on a fictional idea.  The town economy has benefitted from tourists (like me) who stayed at the Dew Drop Inn motel and ate at the In Place. Both of which I highly recommend. Hats off to the Forks Chamber of Commerce for promoting an image that’s brought new life to a once declining logging town.




The Gem of Winter Park

Summer is a great time of year to visit the Morse Museum of Winter Park, Florida.  The Morse Museum contains the most comprehensive collection of works by American artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Exhibits include leaded-glass lamps, unique windows, and architectural elements from Tiffany’s Long Island estate, Laurelton Hall. My favorite part of the museum is The Chapel which Tiffany created for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

Inside The Chapel, intricate glass mosaic surfaces reflect light from a ten foot by eight foot electrified chandelier in the shape of a cross. Sitting in the chapel makes me feel as if I’m in another world. Similar to the great cathedrals of Europe, The Chapel inspires me to consider the beauty and holiness of God. I am reminded that darkness will never extinguish the light.

Stained glass as an art form reached its height in the Middle Ages. The stained glass windows of medieval churches taught the narrative of the Bible to an illiterate population. During the twelfth century in England the Tree of Jesse Window  displayed the genealogy of Christ. Pictured at the base of the tree is Jesse, father of King David. On higher branches are the kings and prophets of Judah. At the top Christ and Mary are shown. This window shared Isaiah’s prophecy: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse and a Branch shall grow from his roots.”

As America became more industrialized during the late 1800’s and cities grew, churches sought artists who could work in stained glass.  During the nineteenth century, pot metal glass was commonly used. Craftspeople often painted this regular looking glass with enamels.

Tiffany’s windows took stained glass to a new level. His invention of opalescent glass used chemicals to create the variations of color found in nature. The result was a more realistic looking product.   Tiffany’s windows fulfilled a long-desired American goal of countering the perceived artistic superiority of Europe. He mastered the art, and by 1900 America led the world in the production of stained glass decorations. Tiffany Studios produced a range of products including lamps, pottery and jewelry.

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Tiffany was inspired by nature and intoxicated by color.  Winter is an example of opalescent glass from the Four Seasons panel on display in the Morse Museum.

The process of creating stained glass amazes me.  Glass is made by mixing sand, soda, and lime. Color is created by adding metallic oxides. Heat and pressure are applied. Then after cooling, the glass is cut and placed into flexible pieces of lead and soldered at the joints.

I wrote Windows of Heaven, as a tribute to the Morse Museum and Tiffany’s beautiful art.

Windows of Heaven     

Earth fused with fire

minerals blend

amethyst stained

atoms suspend.

Colorful glass

fruit of the flame

cut into shapes

placed in a frame

Fastened together

images set

ruby and sapphire

form a rosette.


Light iridescent

spectrum of grace

filling the darkness

my hiding place.




On Tuesday, July 4, 2017 admission to the Morse Museum is free as part of the Winter Park Independence Day Celebration.








Poetry: A Message in a Bottle

Rain Song       

The rhythm of the rain

God’s pattern of music

echoes divine favor

bridges heaven and earth.

Poetry is the rain

that soaks the senses

and sings the melody

which waters the soul.

(Debra Burton 2014)


“Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.” Carl Sandburg  Atlantic Monthly, March 1923

In case you forgot, April is National Poetry Month. During the month of April flowers bloom and butterflies flutter.  What a great time of year to recognize the significant contribution of poetry to our world. Maybe you haven’t given this art form much thought. Maybe you enjoyed reading poetry in school, but currently read novels instead.  Maybe you don’t feel like you understand what some poets are trying to say.  If you agree with any or all of these statements, please consider the following benefits of reading poetry.

  • Poetry helps readers grow intellectually. It teaches us to simplify complex ideas through the use of  symbolism and imagery.  As we read we draw a mental picture of what the poet sees.
  • When we engage with the emotions of the poet, we develop empathy. If we identify with the experiences of other people, we better understand ourselves.
  • Poetry infuses life with beauty and meaning, which increases our creativity.

Take a few moments to access these links. In her poem, Hope is a thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson compares hope to a bird that never makes demands.  Shel Silverstein grapples with the secret world of dialogue known to caterpillars in his poem, Forgotten Language.  William Wordsworth elevates his mood by contemplating daffodils in his work, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.  All of these poems connect with the reader’s emotions through the appreciation of nature. These poets make new discoveries as they ponder the small things which are often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of life.

Writing poetry is a vehicle for artistic self-expression. Who I am, what I think, and my experiences are communicated by showing instead of telling.  The poet paints with words, like an artist paints on canvas.

In his book, How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, author Edward Hirsch refers to poetry as a message in a bottle. After the message is cast into the ocean, it drifts onto the beach waiting to be opened. The finder is the one the message was trying to reach. Once the finder opens it, words spill out from a distant place and time, yet still rich with meaning.

The following poems are my messages in a bottle. Cast out upon the waves, may these words reach the finders they are seeking.  

For My Brother

As night fell in the desert

We stretched out on our cots,

Saw distant constellations

Whose titles we forgot

Viewed streaks of falling stars

Pulled down by gravity

Like fleeting dreams of childhood

Which never came to be.


The howl of a coyote

Made such an eerie sound.

It cautioned all outsiders,

“I will defend my ground.”

We whispered to each other

And felt a tinge of fright

Like children telling stories

When Dad turned out the light.

(Debra Burton 2015)


A Hapless Hero

Flutter of butterflies hover on the scene.

Arizona thistles bow before each queen.

Flutter of butterflies crowned in orange and white,

Seated on their purple thrones surrounded by the light.

Flutter of butterflies lift your scepters up.

Raise the royal chalice, drink deeply from the cup.


One little butterfly caught so unaware,

Lunch for a roadrunner dashing to his lair.

Roadrunner, fierce hunter, slowing to a stop.

Overcome with dizziness, suddenly he drops.

Flutter of butterflies, your banquet is not done.

Your kingdom was saved by the sacrifice of one.

(Debra Burton 2015)



Arizona Queen Butterflies



























The Secret of the Cereus


ILWS6012Buzzards glide in a cloudless sky; rock squirrels hurry on the ground.

Lost in the shadow of the prickly pear, the Cereus makes no sound.

A lazy cactus with sprawling stems, supported by kind neighbors,

Watching and waiting for the perfect time,to begin its secret labors.


Coaxed by one grand sunset, each Cereus bud unfolds.

Delicate white petals, with centers of soft gold.

A fragrance like vanilla, spills forth from every core

luring a local sphinx moth to pollinate…before…

The first light of the morning forever shuts each flower.

Without complaint or question, they meet their final hour.


The secret of the Cereus, revealed one moonlit night:

Fulfill the maker’s purpose inside the span of life.

Buzzards glide in the cloudless sky; rock squirrels hurry on the ground.

Life resumes in the desert heat; but the Cereus makes no sound.


I wrote the poem “The Secret of the Cereus” two years ago. Like many busy people I’ve  complained about how little time I seem to have.  What if you only had twelve hours to accomplish your mission in life? That’s how much time a Cereus has. This flower only blooms one night out of the year. So what is the Cereus doing the rest of the year? Getting ready!

Although the Night-Blooming Cereus can be cultivated in tropical areas, its natural habitat is the desert  of the American southwest. According to Desert USA, the Cereus is rarely noticed due to its plain characteristics. A member of the cactus family, the Cereus grows in the shadow of other desert shrubs. It has sparse, gray, twiggy stems which break easily. These stems can grow anywhere from four to eight feet in length. The Cereus can look like it’s dead, but it isn’t. That’s where the secret comes in. All year it is preparing to bloom!

On that one special night groups of Cereus all bloom at the same time. This event makes it possible for the sphinx moth to cross pollinate between flowers so fruit can be produced. The Cereus produces a red elliptical fruit that is actually edible!

I’ve never seen a wild Cereus in bloom. Tohono Chul Park near Tuscon, Arizona is reported to have the largest collection of night-blooming Cereus in the U.S. The park hosts Bloom Night which is open to the public. Imagine walking at night on a trail in the desert. Above you the sky is filled with millions of stars, and at your feet the path is lined with luminaries. In the distance, the cry of a coyote breaks the silence sending chills up your spine. The air is heavy with the sweet fragrance like vanilla, and then you see scores of beautiful white blooms glowing in the moonlight! Bloom Night is number one on my bucket list!

Of course timing is very important when it comes to witnessing Bloom Night. It can occur anywhere between the end of May and late July. If you go to the park’s website, you can sign up for the bloom watch. You’ll receive emails to notify you of the progress of the Cereus blooms.  It might be something to plan a vacation around, providing you own your own plane!

Ever since I learned about the night-blooming Cereus I try to not complain about a shortage of time. After all, this flower only lives for one night. It accomplishes what it was created to do, at a time when no one may notice, and it never complains. Do you have a destination you have always wanted to visit, or something you would like to witness? Leave a comment and tell me about it.

Photo of Night-Blooming Cereus, courtesy of an Orlando gardener.











The Problem with Lists

IMG_6569Have you ever stopped to think about how many lists there are in the world? I’ll begin by listing a few of them.

Grocery list, packing list, inventory list, bucket list, to-do-list, reading list, guest list, waiting list, call list, class list, friends list, wish list, and the FBI most wanted list… I could go on an on. I’ve written a lot of lists in my life.  When I can’t decide what to write about, I’ve even made a “what I could write about list.”

Lists can help us remember things. But they can also stop us from enjoying life if we let them control us. Have you ever not been able to function without your list? One time I lost my grocery list with my menu for the week when I was in the grocery store. I’ll admit, I’m an organization freak. When I lost my list a sense of panic spread throughout my body! Actually, it wasn’t the end of the world and I  even learned that I usually buy the same things every time I shop. Ok… yogurt, Cheerios, sandwich thins, sliced  turkey… I think we’ll survive!

When I get ready to travel I begin by making a list, of course.  I start packing several days before I leave, and check off each item as I put it in the suitcase. This method is not entirely fool-proof if you didn’t write something you needed on the list. I really admire people who literally, “fly by the seat of their pants”. Some people I know, and I won’t mention any names here, don’t make lists and wait until the last hour to pack before leaving for the airport! They say, if I forgot something, like clothes, I can always buy more souvenir T-shirts!

What about to-do-lists? Do you enjoy a sense of accomplishment as you cross those tasks out?  Have you ever crossed them out even though you didn’t do them? How do you acknowledge if you really completed the task or did a half way job? Too often I put way too many things on my to-do-list. So  I have to carry it over to the next day and maybe even the next week! Making lists can be very time-consuming.  What’s the point of having your whole day crossed out before you go to bed? Extend that to crossing out weeks, months, years, and even your whole life! To-do-lists are mostly for boring, unpleasant tasks that no one really wants to do. Some of the most memorable and enjoyable moments of our lives can happen in between the entries on our list. Who writes down,” be sure to eat ice cream today”, or “sit on the front porch and enjoy the sunset”?

Most people my age are thinking about crossing things off their bucket lists. A bucket list might include exotic places to visit, learning a new skill, or doing something adventurous. I’m curious, do most people write their bucket list in one sitting, or do they continually add to it? What is the best age to start writing a bucket list?  For the unimaginative, there are websites where you can get bucket list ideas! See the top 100 bucket list ideas at I was surprised to read #25, “Raise a happy and healthy child.” Is that something you can really control?  What happens when  your bucket list is all crossed out? Is life over?

Lists can really stress a person out. They can actually depress you by making you feel like a failure if you don’t accomplish what you’ve written down.  And let’s face it, life does get in the way sometimes. Life, with all its twists and turns is full of unexpected events. My new challenge for myself is to live in the moment and make less lists. Hmmm…Maybe  I will write that down as number one on my “new personal goals list”.





Trust and Obey



Have you ever looked back on an experience in your life and wondered, “How did I do that?” Those are my thoughts as I look at this image of myself taken while riding a mule out of the depths of the Grand Canyon. The words of an old hymn come to mind: “Trust and obey, there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” On this trip, I needed to do both in order to succeed and survive.

A few months ago, my husband suggested that we take the mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Given that you can only get to the bottom by foot or mule, I thought the mule idea was a better one.  We made our reservations for April 30, 2016.

When we arrived at the South Rim, we were surprised by the cold temperatures. It actually snowed on April 28! The day of our mule excursion, it was pouring rain. After receiving instructions, and nervously mounting our mules, we proceeded down the Bright Angel Trail on a five-hour journey to the Phantom Ranch. The canyon was filled with fog. We couldn’t see any farther than twenty feet in front of us. The decreased visibility actually helped me forget about the canyon drop-offs and focus on one thing, getting to know my mule named Olga.

Mules are hybrid animals, the offspring of a male donkey and female horse.  Mules resemble horses in terms of height, but have short manes like donkeys.  Olga had a reddish-brown coat and soft, gentle-looking eyes. Her big ears stuck out on either side of her head. Each ear curled forward as she plodded along, almost like a swimmer with hands cupped, to pull back water with each stroke. Olga had made this trip many times. She knew the trail, the guides, and the other mules. This was Olga’s territory.

I have never been at the mercy of an animal before. My job was to hold on to the saddle horn with my right hand and keep the reins in my left. A “motivator” (whip) was hanging from my right wrist to use if necessary in case Olga slowed down. I’m sorry to say, Olga slowed down frequently, and my feeble attempts to use the motivator didn’t have much of an impact. She responded better when Josiah, our guide, called her name.

I was amazed at Olga’s strength and courage.  After we stopped for lunch, the clouds lifted to reveal the splendor of the canyon around us. As we rounded a narrow hairpin curve, Olga’s head lurched forward into space and my stomach flipped like I was on a ride at a theme park. What a thrill! Olga didn’t lose her balance, and I stayed on the saddle. Two good things! As the hours passed, I began to trust Olga. She navigated the trail like a pro. By the second day, I could actually relax enough to take some pictures.

Our guides, Kevin and Josiah, were experienced wranglers and very knowledgeable about mules and the canyon. I obeyed them regarding the use of my phone, and kept it strapped around my neck as directed. We were allowed to take pictures whenever we wanted. But I must say it was easier when Olga stopped. Down in the canyon there was no signal. We could not send or receive calls, text, or email.  We had gone back in time 100 years!  Kevin and Josiah carried walkie talkies for communication with the outside world.

Safety was a priority. Our guides insisted we wait for their assistance regarding mounting, or dismounting our  mules. That wasn’t a problem for me! I was too short to climb up on Olga without help.  After a couple of hours of riding, my feet and legs were numb. I needed support to  dismount  and stand up!

After our mules crossed the Colorado River on the Black Bridge, we turned in at the Phantom Ranch for the night.   The next morning we began our ascent up the South Kaibab Trail.  This trail was shorter and steeper than Bright Angel.  Along the trail we stopped periodically to rest the mules. Josiah instructed us to line up our mules in a row and look out upon the canyon to witness the art of God.

The layers of  rock so distant and faded when seen from the rim, exploded in vibrant colors of pink, red, and green!  Pinyon pine, juniper, wildflowers, and wild grass flourished in a place I had considered barren. A kind of holy hush whispered on the wind. This was a place like no other. A place wild and free.  A place accessible through obedience and trust.