The Secret

Can you keep a secret?


Neither can I. (But don’t tell. :-))

If you can’t keep a secret then it’s not you I’m looking for. In fact, telling secrets narrows my search considerably.

Can you keep a secret?


Then maybe it’s you!

For you see, for the past three Christmases, since I was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February 2011, I’ve had a Secret Santa who sends me bulbs ready to flower. I’ve asked all the likely suspects I’ve come into contact with, but each assures me it’s not him/her.

To tell the truth, I’m glad I can’t find my Secret Santa. I’ve quit asking. There are some mysteries in life that are better left unexplained. Too many words!

And I’m glad I forget by year’s end so that I’m surprised and delighted anew each time I receive yet another gift.

And let’s face it, I’m delighted anew each time I get to spend another Christmas and New Year on Earth. Aren’t you glad you do, too?

After all, life–love–and Santa–work in mysterious ways. Each brings hope and wonder. Each brings promise. Each brings our heart’s desire. If we can just find them….

None of these forces can be seen, except by the feelings and gifts they leave behind. (Well, maybe Santa, if you’re really lucky!)

Maybe we’re all like Secret Santas. We leave feelings and gifts with each person and creature we meet.

In this New Year, may each us of leave the gifts of hope, wonder, promise, love AND FLOWERS!

To Gayle, Love Santa

To Gayle,
Love Santa

Happy New Year, Dear Readers!

Thank you for reading and sharing my blog posts. Thanks to you, I have visitors from all over the world dropping in for a sip of the sweet life. If you care to share, and the fb and share icons do not appear below, you can click on the post’s title and they should appear. Or not, who knows? It’s a mystery!

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Country Trees vs. City Trees

Which do you prefer:

City Christmas trees:

Nieman Marcus Tree & Macy’s Tree at Union Square, San Francisco

(We were in SF last week for medical appts. Results are on Health Update page.)

Or Country Christmas trees:



Countryside, Mt. Gate, CA

Countryside, Mt. Gate, CA















I don’t know about you, but I have my preference.

Can you guess?

Not saying my answer is the correct one, you understand, I’m just saying….

*City trees are richly appointed–and why not.

*City trees are beautiful– at least I think so.

*City trees are larger than life–like John Wayne.


Having taken a look at good reasons for choosing city trees, let’s now turn to country trees–my choice.

And, why did I choose this country tree?

I can relate to it. It is NOT perfect!

I repeat, it is not perfect. I admit, I tried far too many years to be perfect, but it just never worked!

So when guests come to Christmas dinner this year, they will simply have to:

*ignore the spider webs,

*step around the clutter

*and overlook the mismatch of pretty but divergent plates and serving bowls.

Instead, I hope they:

*look into Mike’s and my eyes to see the warmth and love shining at the joy they bring into our  hearts and home.

*will savor the food we will share, nurturing both body and soul.

*will be as grateful as my beloved husband and I are for yet one more Christmas together, for who knows what life may bring in the new year.

Hmmm, wait….

Did I just set the place setting for a perfect Christmas?

Maybe I better rethink those city trees!

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The Healing Quilts

Published on December 7, 2013 by in Inspirational

It’s time to snuggle!

Winter time, that is. Maybe not officially by the calendar, but officially by my bones!

And what better way to snuggle than to cozy up in a quilt. (One better way would be to cozy up with a quilt AND a cat, but for me, that’s a given!)

So I have gotten out my two favorite quilts. I didn’t have far to go, as I have held them close to my heart since I received them.

Jan's Healing Quilt

Jan’s Healing Quilt


Barbara's Healing Quilt

Barbara’s Healing Quilt

If you have ever received a handmade quilt as a gift, you know why these are my favorites.  The time and expense involved are one thing (maybe two), but the honor of receiving one is way over the top. Think of the love and healing thoughts that went into each quilt. That’s what I absorb when I wrap myself in their embrace.

Jan Brockett made the green quilt. She and her husband Burt brought it to me in 2011 when I was undergoing chemotherapy and daily radiation treatments. I was too sick to get off the couch and give Jan a hug, but I was not too sick to feel my heart fill.

Barbara Tavolazzi made the sunny yellow and lavender quilt. She made it for me after she heard my cancer had come back. She figured (rightfully so) that I could use a little extra TLC.

What is it about Jan’s and Barbara’s nature, and yours and mine, that makes us want to reach out in love and compassion to those who are suffering? Could it be that we have all suffered?  Could it be that we are all connected by a band of human emotions that can wrench our hearts as easily as warm them? Could it be that basic human nature is good, compassionate and filled with love?

If you enjoy pondering answers to these questions, I have one more for your consideration.

Who received the most love from the healing quilts?

A.  Jan or Barbara because of their giving?

B.  Me because of my receiving?

C. You because this post gives you a moment to reflect on the love you have given and the love you have received?

D. ALL of the above.

Yep, you’re right. Whichever one you choose, you chose correctly. That’s the way it works.

Now that I’ve shared my healing quilts with you, it’s time to turn my attention to blankets.

God sent me a new favorite last night:

God's Healing Blanket

God’s Healing Blanket!

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Room With a View–of Heaven!

Can you guess what this room with a view is?





I’ll give you a hint:

See that pumpkin-pie colored strip at the bottom of the photo? It is my arm–sparkling with water.

See that mashed potato-colored strip in the bottom right-hand corner? It is porcelain. (I think. Maybe it’s enamel–who knows!)

See that “Oh, My God”-colored strip throughout the rest of the photo? It is my view.

By now you’ve probably made a serious attempt at an answer or have come up with a wisecrack (please feel free to share: wisecracks are encouraged, welcomed and appreciated. Rest assured, they will not be graded–unless I just can’t help myself!)

Being a former English teacher, you will understand my hesitation at saying “Bathroom” is the correct answer to this riddle.

I am leaning more toward, “Bath Room.”

As in:

Bath Room!

Bath Room!

Surely you can see the joy reflected on my face.

What you can’t see is the joy radiating from my heart. (Well, just maybe these two are the same.)

But the joy comes from many reasons:

#1)  My husband wanted me to have a bathtub. We only have a shower indoors, and not enough room for a tub. And when your body is not always comfortable to be in, any comfort is welcome!

#2)  Three years ago when I had a tube coming from my gallbladder to an outside bag, and it ABSOLUTELY could not get wet, and I didn’t know if I could ever have surgery, I was told I may never be able to get in water again–a shower, a bath, a pool, a lake, a spa….Yikes! Too much information!

#3)  When my husband installed the bathtub this summer, I was too weak to even consider climbing into and sitting in an outside tub.

#4)  I can once again use pretty smelling bath salts–the kinds that make me smell like a Goddess and give me silky skin!

#5)  I can go to bed in total relaxation, innocent and pure and sleep as soundly as a freshly bathed baby.

#6) I can remember to be thankful!

How about you? What are the joys in your life that remind you to be thankful?

I know you must have thousands upon thousands upon thousands. But if you don’t, or if you’re having trouble even coming up with one, I invite you to come visit my room with a view.

Heaven is only a joy–and a bath–away!

Room With a View  of Heaven!

Room With a View
of Heaven!

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A Peek at Kanaka Peak

I made it!

All the way to the top, that is.










Who would have imagined?

Mike and I drove to the trail head that day so we could leave when I got tired. And I did get tired–twice. Wouldn’t you if you were hiking up a three mile hill?

But both times I sat for a moment and remembered what the Buddhist monk, Big Baba, had told me about gathering energy from nature. So I did what he suggested, breathing the energy in, and got up feeling perfectly normal and forging ahead.


Forging Ahead!

Forging Ahead!













That’s the best we can hope for in this world, isn’t it? To keep forging ahead, no matter what our burdens, what our joys, what our dreams, and what our fears?

One foot at a time, one day at a time, even one breath at a time if that’s all we have to give.

But give we must, for that is our nature. Human nature. Nature’s nature.

Give ourselves to this world, whatever shape we’re in, whatever path we are walking.

And in so doing, we receive: each other, nature, ourselves.

Who knows, we may even receive that which is more than ourselves, buried within, awaiting self-examination and a polishing cloth!

Then the first step:














The journey:

The Middle!

The Middle!

And the Destination:

The End!

The End!












have all served us.

Each one leading us back to the beginning, to that which is fresh, that which is new, that which is our birthright.

Each one leading us back to ourselves.

Of course, it may be helpful to have that bottle of liniment handy. You never know when forging ahead may cause sore muscles!


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Awareness Never Felt So Good!

How can it be that this is the best time of my life?!

I am well aware that my doctors tell me I’m on the fast-track out. I’m well aware that this body of mine is struggling. I’m well aware that I can no longer do the physical activities that I love so much.

I am well aware.

Maybe that’s why this is the best time of my life!

For you see, I am well aware of life!

And love. And sacrifice. And suffering. And joy. And human kindness. And connection. And alone-ness.  And hope. And hopelessness. And acceptance. And humbleness. And self-healing.

And human longing to be in this world!

For this world offers itself in many different ways:


Cousin Liz (God's Art) and Spiders (Man's Art)

Cousin Liz (God’s Art) and
Spiders (Man’s Art)


Tito: The Carrot Eating Dog

Tito: The Carrot Eating Dog


Bird Brains

Bird Brains


Tony the Musician

Tony the Musician

Through nature:

Full Moon

Full Moon

And through the miraculous gift of laughter:

So True! (My Talkative Husband)

So True!
(My Talkative Husband)

This post could list a zillion things about what this world has to offer me, but I’m sure you’re anxious to turn your attention to those things it offers you.

If you care to share in the comment section, please do. For you see, YOU are one of the things this world has to offer.

You are what the world is waiting for.

Don’t delay.

For being aware of oneself is the secret to being aware.

Aware of life!

And who doesn’t want to live The Sweet Life: La Dolce Vita!

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Labyrinths are A-Maze-ing: So is Big Baba

We hikers have a “code” for the trail. It is this:

What takes place on the trail, stays on the trail.

So any of you labyrinth walkers must forgive me if I am breaking any such “labyrinth code.” But this is simply too a-maze-ing to leave solely in the hearts and minds of those who witnessed it.

I, for one, was there. So was my sister Joan. So was my friend Miriam. So were the three women who Big Baba met in the labyrinth.

Big Baba, a Buddhist Monk from Thailand, has been staying in Mt. Shasta for the past three months. He is the one who put the “amazing” in the labyrinth. This is when. This is how. This is why.

Gayle & Big Baba in Labyrinth on Mt. Shasta

Gayle & Big Baba in Labyrinth on Mt. Shasta

Last Wednesday Della Clark held a farewell potluck for Big Baba at her beautiful home and retreat center at the base of Mt. Shasta.

Erupting volcanoes could not have kept me away!

Gayle Giving Food to Big Baba

Gayle Sharing Food with Big Baba

After the gathering, I wanted more of Big Baba. I always want more of Big Baba.  I have so much to learn from him. Besides, whenever I spend the day with Big Baba, I have the energy to live a full length day–no minor feat for someone diagnosed with terminal, stage 3 metastatic pancreas cancer who is on daily and weekly chemotherapy!

So, Big Baba invited us to meet him later at his house, drive him to Dunsmuir in response to an invitation, and then proceed to the mountain that lured him to the city of Mt. Shasta.

But, as such things often happen, the woman who was to guide us to her house arrived later than the agreed upon time. Consequently, Big Baba sensed we needed to cancel our Dunsmuir trip and head to the mountain while there was still light.

Joan, Miriam and I took him up the mountain to the labyrinth. When we arrived, we saw three women in the center holding hands and either praying or talking together. They soon finished and walked toward us. Somehow Big Baba knew we had missed the trip to Dunsmuir to be here at this very moment.

He walked toward the women and said to the youngest one, “Is there a question you want to ask me?”

The young woman looked at the saffron-robed monk in front of her and then at us with a puzzled look.

I interjected, “If you have a question, you may ask him.”

“Yes, I do,” she answered, still looking puzzled. Yet she remained silent.

Big Baba asked, “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“A friend,” she stammered.

“Why are you here?” Big Baba asked.

“Before we left Mexico, I prayed for a sign,” she answered. “We came to the labyrinth yesterday and today waiting for a sign.”

The young woman, named Lizzy, put her hand on another woman’s arm. “This is my mother. She meditates,” Lizzy continued. “She said she saw the image of someone coming here to help us.”

The third woman was translating the conversation into Spanish for Lizzy’s mother and into English for Big Baba. I was wishing for a transcendent translation!

Big Baba then began to describe Lizzy’s relationship to her friend, her mother and her career.

“You know too much,” she giggled, but was fascinated and eager to hear more.

The monk then told Lizzy how to heal her relationship with her mother.  He next turned to the mother and told her how to heal her relationship with her daughter. He had them face each other and repeat after him. He said words in English, they repeated. He next gave them a blessing in his native language and the two of them began crying and hugging each other with great love and forgiveness.

It was such a powerful moment that Miriam, Joan and I cried and all six of us women began hugging each other, moved beyond words at the healing that had just taken place between a mother and daughter and a daughter and mother.

Divine Love!

Divine Love!

But Big Baba was not finished. He looked into the young woman’s eyes and said, “You are very intelligent. Others do not understand you. You want your friend and your mother to understand you. But they cannot.”

“That’s right,” Lizzy agreed.

“I understand you,” the monk replied, “and one is enough. So drop it, okay?” (I think he learned that last phrase in California!)

She nodded her agreement.

“You promise?” he asked.

“Yes, I promise.”

The Buddhist Monk looked once more at the young woman from Mexico. “You have a very good future ahead of you. You will also make lots of money.”

Big Baba then asked Joan, Miriam and me to stand away for a while as he talked further with the three women. I wonder what he said.

Each of us were in amazement and awe at the truly gifted healer standing before us.

The women finally left as they had yet to drive to Sacramento. From there they would catch their flight back to Mexico.

I think they were already flying high!

On the drive back down the mountain, with the powerful monk sitting beside me in my small car and the memory of the event still melting my heart, I so desired, and yes, even prayed, that I, too, could one day spread such goodness in this world.

Big Baba had told me a few weeks earlier that I still have work yet to do in this world–to spread love to thousands of people. May his prediction one day come true!

And, may this blog post be one of those ways love reaches you. Big Baba’s love–my love–all love. Love beyond yearnings and cravings. Love beyond understanding. Love beyond the human heart. Love that heals by reaching into the soul of who you are and overflowing into the souls of all. Love that Big Baba offers freely to the world. Pure love. Love.

Big Baba left Mt. Shasta last Saturday, on his way to new adventure. I will continue to learn from him, however, as I hold him in my heart wherever he goes and wherever I go.

(I will also follow him on his website…/BigBabaBlackBuddhaPhraWithoonArjarasupohBio…‎)

And I will hold YOU in my heart, too. Wherever you go. Wherever I go. For you see, somehow, Big Baba opened my heart.

I think it happened the first time I was in the labyrinth with him. Mike was there and was the only one to witness me fall to my knees sobbing in gratitude and humbleness for the healing that had just taken place inside. I don’t know what it was, or how it happened, or what occurred. All I know is that it was one of the most profound moments of my life. Thank you, Big Baba!

So you see, labyrinths are truly a-maze-ing places. Especially when Big Baba is the one doing the A-Maze-ing Grace!


Big Baba Big Love!

Big Baba
Big Love!

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Big Baba Says, “Don’t Worry. No Problem. Be Happy!”

Published on October 21, 2013 by in Inspirational

“Don’t worry. No problem. Be happy,” says my beloved Big Baba.

Big Baba Aglow!

Big Baba

He’s not really mine: he belongs to the whole world, but I feel a special affinity for him.

He is learning to speak English while in America, but he has these words down pat. In fact, he speaks them without using words. He radiates them.

You can see his joy as he greets strangers who are mysteriously drawn to his front porch in Mt. Shasta, “Come,” he ushers.”Sit. Sit.” He pulls chairs around his table and disappears into the house.

Minutes later he appears with cups of tea and plates of sliced plums, pears, apples and fuyu persimmons. “Eat,” he invites. His eyes dance with playfulness and love.

Sit. Eat. Drink. Be Happy!

Sit. Eat. Drink. Be Happy!

So we, (who appear not to be strangers after all) eat. We drink. We join in his dance.

“Don’t worry. No problem. Be happy,” he says.

I get it.

Sitting in this man’s presence offers no other choice. Lord knows I’ve tried to worry, have problems and be unhappy!

But these things are simply not possibly when one is with Big Baba.

Happiness Personified!

Happiness Personified!

Our language barrier does not permit in-depth conversations and answers to hundreds of questions I have to ask, (thank goodness!) so I bask in his glow and am grateful for the teachings I receive.

Like the time he told me, “Be positive. All things are possible if you can dream them first.”

Or, “Darkness cannot remain where gleaming light shines. Use your wisdom to shine on your heart.”

Or, “When things happen, I accept them.”

Or the time he told me that I have a great sadness in my heart that needs to be healed. He then helped me heal it. When I asked him how it is possible that he can do such a thing, he told me, “Practice–and receiving confirmation. I’ve been practicing for 35 years.” God bless him!

His grace, indeed, extends to all creatures great and small. Billy, my 18-year-old cat has never approached another person except me. Even my husband, who has known (and fed) Billy for a decade.

Yet last week when Big Baba was sitting in my living room with many of my friends surrounding him, Billy came in and jumped up on the arm of Big Baba’s chair. The cat couldn’t get enough of the man. He walked back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, immersing himself in the monk’s goodness.

Big Baba finally said, “Sit. Sit.” Billy sat.

Go figure.

Billy Knows!

Billy Knows!

Or the time Michael and I were at Panther Meadows with Big Baba, and a chipmunk couldn’t resist meeting him:

Munk meets Monk

Munk meets Monk

Perhaps his (my) greatest healing, however, was at the labyrinth on Mt. Shasta. That time deserves another post, though. One of its own. One that can possibly point to the true majesty this man possesses. Maybe it will be the next post. Or the one after that. Or when I miss him so much I have to write about him.

For I don’t know if I will ever get to see Big Baba again or not, as he leaves for Thailand very soon. I want to see him. I want to see him every day. I want to bask in his glow and radiate my happiness, my essence.

Maybe I’ll have to bask in my own glow. Maybe that’s what Big Baba has taught me.

Until I one day meet Big Baba again, I will be content with my reverence for him and the great gifts he has given me.

(I also will be checking in on his newly constructed website.) It’s still in process, so I should be able to read new updates. You can check in on him, too, if you’d like to know more.…/BigBabaBlackBuddhaPhraWithoonArjarasupohBio…

But I have to be honest and say I don’t NEED to see him. He has already given me the best advice one human heart can give another:





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A Summer Farewell….

Published on October 10, 2013 by in Inspirational

As Autumn falls I surrender.

I find that surrendering grows easier and easier as I get older–and wiser. You may ask what on Earth I might be surrendering to now that Fall is in the air. The answer is simple:  the passing of summer!

And homemade pickles made from succulent Farmer’s Market pickling cucumbers:

Tummy Bounty!

Tummy Bounty!

Summer Bounty!

And picnics with friends in the warmth of the sun and the cool of the river:

Francie & Bill & Mike

Francie & Bill (on right) & Mike

And digging crystals at Shasta Lake:

Liz--Can you Dig It!

Liz–Can you Dig It!

Niece Angela: Crystals Aren't the Only Treasures!

Niece Angela:
Crystals Aren’t the Only Treasures!

Captain Wendy

Captain Wendy


And painting outside at Sandy’s:

Sandy--Hard at Play!

Sandy–Hard at Play!

Liz--Happy and Color-Full

Liz–Happy and Color-Full















And luxuriating with tea after sleeping under the stars, atop warm Mother Earth:


Ah! The Sweet Life!

Ah! The Sweet Life!


 And lastly, a birthday cake celebrating another precious year of life!


Ardith--Master Chef!

Ardith–Master Chef!

Happy Birthday, Gayle!












So, as I surrender to Autumn, I let go of the joys of the summer. I can’t hold onto them anyway; they are gone–no matter how much I want them back or wish life could be like it was.

It’s different now. I must accept. Besides, if I’m too busy lamenting how life used to be, I miss what is here right now.  Life.  Always life through ALL seasons….

And now as I face forward, releasing the past, I see Autumn.



Acorns as big as golf balls!

Acorns as big as golf balls!





Lounging in the sun!

Lounging in the sun!

Mt. Shasta adorned with new snow, framed by a blaze of color.

Mt. Shasta adorned with new snow, framed by a blaze of color.

And as I relax into this season, I continue to see the gifts Fall offers.

In my excitement, I resist the temptation to wonder what Winter will bring. For if I look ahead, I might miss something happening  right now.


Birds at the bird bath!

Birds at the bird bath!

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Up to My Knees in Alligators

Published on October 2, 2013 by in Inspirational

I found myself knee deep in alligators yesterday.

Or, more like alligator. But one was enough.

Knee deep in Alligator

Knee deep in Alligator


Have you ever been there?  Knee deep in alligators, that is?

What did you do about it?

1) Stamp your feet

2) Grab an alligator shooter….

3) Complain!

4) Cry, scream, holler, beg, plead for your life….

5) Run away….

6) Pray

7) Feel sorry for yourself…

8) Get swallowed up whole?

I did none of those things yesterday, although I have tried each of them at one time or another. Bet you can guess which one works!


I tried another one yesterday that also works. I called for my sister. She is always willing–and quite able–to help me.

monk, alligator, acorns 059

Help, Sister, Help!


Only this time I needed help getting this guy home. He was living on the streets in Mt. Shasta. In my mind he needed to be near water. The sooner the better.

Not that Joan nor I have a mischievous sense of humor, so you will be surprised to learn that I suggested to Joan that we turn this swamp creature loose in my yard without telling my husband Mike. I thought it would be a riot if he found the creature quite unexpectedly. Joan immediately agreed and suggested we place him in the outside bathtub. At the thought of it, we laughed ourselves silly all the way home.

Once home, we tried putting him in the tub, but he was too big, so we did the next best thing:

Home, Sweet, Home

Home, Sweet, Home

Now, I’m not saying there is any danger here, having an alligator live with us. In fact, he’s not the only alligator that lives here. All of us have alligators, don’t we? Sometimes they are man-eating size, sometimes they are baby-sized and sometimes they are in-between. But I’ve decided to send all of my seen and unseen alligators to live outside where they belong. I don’t want to live with them anymore!

And as for Mike’s reaction….

Joan and I saw his eyes light up with delight when he first spotted the new addition, the moment before any words or sounds could be made.

Pure joy!

After all, isn’t that what our alligators are in reality pointing us toward?

We have christened him Al Lee Gator. (The alligator–not Mike!)

I hope you find your alligators to be as cheerful and friendly as we find ours!

Al Lee Gator  Meets  Al Lee Cat

Al Lee Gator
Al Lee Cat!

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