The Journey

The Journey
by Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Mary Oliver is quite possibly my favorite poet, or at least one of my favorites. I love the emotion behind her seemingly simple reflections of nature. The Journey, in particular, is one that always hits me. I tend to base much of my self worth off of my ability to help and care for others, but in the end, my own life is the only one I have control over, the only life I truly have the responsibility to change.

We grow up {but the coast remains}

When we were younger, my brothers and I jumped in the waves at the coast for what seemed like hours, though judging by our lack of hypothermia, it was probably less time than we thought. Largely ignoring our parents’ exhortations to go no deeper than our knees (at first we would obey this safety rule, but the waves would catch up with us and soak our pants clear up our legs, the wetness leaving damning evidence of our rule-breaking), we rolled up our sweat pants, held hands in a chain, and stepped into the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean. Standing in salty, clear water swirling around our ankles, we waited, one heartbeat, two, three, adrenalin building. Just as the next set of waves broke inexorably toward us, I would yell now!, the four of us backing up quickly, racing backwards away from the oncoming waves and sending up water in a splashing, frothy chaos. Suddenly, we would stop and jump together over the foamy white line that defined the edge of the wave, holding hands and hollering in delight.

When we were unable to feel our feet anymore, we would run to the space halfway between dunes and ocean, where the wet sand was the ideal material for digging holes to China and building elaborate, lumpy sandcastles. Our dad would assist us in digging holes large enough for us to stand in, and our mom would construct the best moats and drawbridges for our castles, which we decorated with bits of driftwood and broken shells. When we tired of that we would scamper over to forts of driftwood or clamber over the sand dunes. Sometimes sea kelp would lie in slimy green strands on the sand, and we would exclaim at the gross factor before picking up the smelly item and whipping it around. We avoided beached jellyfish and used sticks of driftwood to carve patterns into the wet sand. Sometimes we could convince Mom and Dad to let us bury someone in the sand, a project that inevitably resulted in sandy ears and hair for days after. As we got older, we would occasionally join our parents in reading novels in the shelter of the dunes.

Nowadays when we visit the coast, my brothers will run around exploring the sand dunes and hiding in the coarse sea grass, while I make a beeline for the ocean, where I splash around in the waves without pause. Eventually they join me, and we dance with the sea, moving forward and back with the graceful waves. I keep my eyes peeled for whole sand dollars and chunks of agate, while the boys play ninja on wet sand that reflects the clouds in the sky. We wander up and down the beach together, exploring pockets of tide pools, balancing on great hunks of driftwood, and wandering among the waves or along the cliffs, as we keep up a running commentary of the teasing and the absurd. We change, but the coast remains ever-changing as always.











IMG_1711     {Pictures by Taffy}

“Don’t Worry”

“Don’t Worry”

What the hell

Do you mean:

  ……………………..“Don’t worry”?

Have you opened a


this century?

Read some headlines

I dare you—

    ………I’m not talking about

……………………………Taylor Swift’s love life

……………………………Michael Vick’s jail time

……………………………Angelina Jolie’s breasts.

Read about

… bombs

 ……….drone strikes

……………..chemical weapons

……………………….Don’t worry

Can you believe:


On the streets of Chicago

……………………….Don’t worry


In the waters where we drink

……………………….Don’t worry


Sick with cancer or abuse?

         ……………….Don’t worry

How can a person be

 ………….. illegal



We are thieves

Stealing their humanity.

  ………………………..Don’t worry

If your eyes were


your heart would


I think         

                    .it’s time                           

                                            .to worry.

Under the Willow

Suspended showers of gold and green, punctuated by soaring blue fill my sight. I am at my most content, sunk into the comfy oversize hammock under the willow tree, a fresh-baked brownie in one hand and a well-worn copy of Little Women in the other. Though my favorite place to be is wrapped up in the welcoming arms of a book, though this book is one of my most treasured, still I cannot help breaking the surface of my book world every dozen pages to lift my gaze to the canopy of willow leaves almost blocking out the azure sky above me. The unexpected slashes of blue only heighten the gold and green glory of the willow tree, its rough brown branches twisted into bizarre spirals that trap me in daydreams. Where I am, below the willow, I am completely hidden, encased in long, slender branches caressing the ground. I am in my own private world where the golden sunlight filters lovingly between verdant leaves and branches.

The willow tree was our best plaything, better even than the old metal swing set from the drive-in movies, which one time had sent Mom hurtling down the steep slide and landing four feet away, after we waxed it down with car wax. My three brothers and I could play Tarzan on and around the willow for hours. Sometimes we would grab its trailing branches and hang on them, but more often we scrabble up the rough bark to the fork in the tree at about head height, while one of us would grab a fistful of slippery green branches and hand the “jungle vines” off to the kid waiting his or her turn at the fork of the tree, after which said Tarzan impersonator would grasp the bunch of branches and jump into space, howling Tarzan-esque jungle calls and stripping most of the leaves from his or her cluster of willow branches. One after another, over and over again, we would swing out with great exhilaration and critique the height and distance of one another’s leaps.

When we weren’t playing Tarzan, we were stripping the bark off branches to make homemade bows and arrows and aiming our best shots on bowstrings made of strips of bark. We wrote secret messages on the dried and peeled bark after we read that Native Americans used to write on birch bark paper. All too often we stripped the longest green and supple branches and used them as whips. With our words tumbling excitedly our of our mouths in whirlwinds, we created forests, castles, pirate ships, rocket ships and rafts, dashing in and out of the willow’s green circle of branches and up and down its trunk. We sat on the riding lawn mower under the tree and constructed a plan to run away together, because that’s the kind of adventure the kids in our books had. And, one at a time, never crowded together, we would read in the hammock. On August’s sweltering nights, two or three of us kids would bring out sheets and pillows and sleep together in the hammock, with the fresh night air on our faces, mosquitos whining at our exposed fingers, watching stars twinkle at us through the branches and listening to the sound of the branches rustling in the wind.

We had nearly an acre of yard to play in, but the willow tree often seemed to be at the center of our games. It was my favorite place to lie back and let my imagination run, just staring up at the mesmerizing cocoon of green and gold surrounding me. Though it is gone now, I will never forget the feeling of contentment I had at being inside its branches, the smell and feel of rain dripping off impossibly green leaves in the spring, the fires of sunsets that slipped through its branches, the hours of spinning stories of our adventures with my brothers.

For the love of mail

I round the corner with a bounce in my step, anticipation rising like helium. Effervescent, I twirl awkwardly to avoid smacking into the person coming around the corner towards me. Humming absently, I reach out my hand; I am a diver searching for submerged treasure, a knight pursuing the Holy Grail.

I float away with a size-of-Texas grin stretched across my face and my prize clutched proudly in my hands. My feet do an odd little half-skip, refusing to be grounded. For a moment, I am standing in the light; for a moment, the day is transformed into something beyond the ordinary. I live for moments like this, whether highly anticipated or completely unexpected.

The joy I feel when I receive a letter or (especially) a package in the mail is pure and– I’ll be honest– ludicrous, or at the very least, disproportionate to the event. I don’t care: I love getting the mail.

At home, I am the family’s (self)appointed mail retriever. I dart buoyantly across the street to our mailbox and eagerly comb through ads, bills, free newsletters, and catalogs to get to letters, Netflix, crafting magazines, and birthday cards. My family laughs at me for this; my mom is concerned about what exactly I am waiting for. Most days, I am waiting for nothing in particular, and most days, I receive nothing in particular. But oh, those wonderful shining moments when something arrives for me! A postcard from a friend, a note from my grandpa, a letter of acceptance; it all sets me walking on sunshine. Email is convenient, but nothing compares to a paper letter, something from a loved one to physically hold onto, to open, read, and reread.

Here at school, there’s no one to witness my obsession with checking the mail, so I have to monitor myself. I’m not allowed to check the mail more than once per day… unless I’m waiting for something important (gotta love a loophole). At school, I get an email when a package arrives, which helps to curb my impulses. When you have a package! pops up in my inbox, I have to go see what it is immediately: is it the book I ordered? the tea? a care package from home?

What I love most about mail is the inherent hope in checking for a letter or package. Mail could bring a love letter, a check for a million dollars, an accepted manuscript, a note from an old friend… What is more hopeful than checking the mail day after day (if you’re as obsessed as me) and looking forward to what could come, despite the too-real possibility of getting bills, or nothing at all?

This week I got a letter, a care package, and the tea I ordered! Living the dream.

This week I got a letter, a care package, AND the tea I ordered! Living the dream.

1st Annual National Vegan Baking Day

Vegan Apple Oat Peanut Butter Almond cookies (AKA Everything in the Cupboards Cookies)


This Friday, Sept. 27 2013, was the USA’s first National Vegan Baking Day. In honor of the occasion, my roommates and I made vegan cookies. None of us are vegan (we made scrambled eggs for dinner before baking), but we are all interested in social justice and food justice, and we’ve been working on eating fair trade and doing Vegan Tuesdays. 

We threw together a cookie recipe that ended up delicious enough to share. So what did we make? Basically, whatever-we-had-around-minus-eggs-and-butter cookies:


Preheat oven to 350.

¾ cup brown sugar

¾ cup white sugar

½ tsp salt

1 cup PB (smooth or chunky; I used chunky)

3/8 cup veggie oil or canola oil (that’s 1 quarter cup plus a half quarter cup… sorry:)

2/3 cup applesauce

2 tsp vanilla (1 tsp is fine if you must)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 ½ cups flour

1 medium apple cut into small cubes/chunks (OPTIONAL- you can go with a pear or raisins or no fruit instead)

2 cups oats

2 squirts of honey (as much or as little as you like; if you’re going FULL vegan, omit the honey)

handful of almonds (chopped up as fine as you like)


Mix dry ingredients first in small bowl.

Mix peanut butter, sugars, applesauce, vanilla, honey, veggie oil in a large mixing bowl.


Slowly add dry ingredients to large mixing bowl.


Add apple & almonds.

IMG_2513 IMG_2520

Bake 11-12 min (on a greased cookie sheet or ungreased cooking stone) at 350 until edges are browned.

IMG_2525      IMG_2564

These cookies retain their moisture well and actually look like cookies, but they do tend to be a little undercooked in the middle. The dough is great too; no salmonella worries.


Try with almond milk!


Interested in more vegan baking? Check out these lists of egg and butter substitutes for a start.