Coping with COVID, Cocaine, and a Cat


COVID is Happening

I’m having a hard time right now. But who isn’t, right? I mean Donald Trump is president, so there’s that. And there’s the escalating pandemic that he has bungled so badly, there’s no relief in sight, short of escaping to another country — if any of them will have us.

I’ve already lost one friend to the virus, and another is intubated in an ICU in Baltimore, waiting for test results. So much grief and sadness in the world. The care-free summer months I always spend here at my family home in New Hampshire are hardly care-free this year. Nevertheless, I’m glad to be here where COVID cases are 1/1000 instead of 1/45, as they are in my Maryland county. But most of my friends are still there!

Still, there is so much beauty and quiet here. My grandmother named our place Quiet Hills, and except for the fact that one of my neighbors is a gun nut and was firing his rifle all morning, it’s mostly the chittering of birds and the breeze in the trees. At night, the racket of bugs munching on leaves is tremendous. I’m not kidding.

Cocaine Happened

I’m struggling with my memoir, but in a good way. Having a writer’s group gives me deadlines, so I’ve been cranking this week, writing up to two thousand words a day. The struggle comes with the memories, trying to remember what withdrawal was like when I quit cocaine, what it felt like to find my drug dealer in my bathtub with a loaded rifle. Trying to remember a night I’ve tried very hard to forget, when one (ex) friend got so ripped he raped another friend, after which the guy’s girlfriend beat the poor woman up. And of course being afraid to write all of that because certain people will be mighty ticked off if they ever read it. Memoir is really, really hard.

A Cat Happened By

My biggest news is that I’ve been adopted by a feline. Hooray and haroo! It’s been two long years (heck, the past four months alone have lasted at least a year) since my two elderly kitties went to the catnip farm in the sky, so I was beyond ready. But I never took the initiative to find a new kitten because they always seem to find me. I knew destiny had mine picked out, preferably two sisters, one calico and one black & white. I’m not particular.

But no, destiny chose a grown tabby, and if I had my doubts when she showed up at the door the first night I arrived, she did not. She was quite certain she belonged inside with me.


And she felt the same way the next morning.

I’m still here!


I told her that she was not the one I had ordered, being neither calico nor black & white. But persistence paid off, and she’s settling in.


So life is doing what life does. It’s passing. Sometimes in trauma and sometimes in beauty, but always with love beneath it all.


Processing Charleston


Sometimes I wish I were a cat. I would not know about racism or gun violence or mental illness. I would not know about terrorism or climate change. I would never have heard of the Ku Klux Klan or the National Rifle Association or Donald Trump (although I would sacrifice a few of my nine lives to wrestle with that hairpiece).

Watching the World

Seeing the world from a different perspective

I arrived at my country place in New Hampshire this week, just in time for the Charleston AME shootings. Bad and sad things often seem to happen when I’m up here, or perhaps I’m just more affected because the pace is slower and I have time to dig a little deeper into the news than I generally do.

I read interviews with victims, I look at pictures of traumatized citizens, I follow links to studies about gun violence, I check to see what reality Fox News is creating (this is an attack on faith and likely has nothing to do with race). I even look at Twitter (random NRA woman says Obama is ecstatic about the latest shooting because it plays into his plot to use race issues to steal her guns).

I get drained and alarmed visiting this reality, and I feel isolated since I don’t have many social connections up here. So I turn to Facebook to see what my friends are saying about it all. A few comment on how sad it is; a few say they are praying. But most have moved on and are posting pictures of their dinners, their new tattoos, or their pets. The mass murder was several days ago, after all.

I decide to escape and go see a movie in town, a harmless sci-fi flick about artificial intelligence. Since I do not provide economic support for violence in the movies, I google just to be sure — although what kind of violence would a movie about computers contain? A variety, it turns out, including:  “strong scenes of violence, with slicing, stabbing, and lots of blood.”

OK, scratch the movie.

I sit down to write a blog post because writing is how I process.

My cat yawns and decides to abandon her chipmunk monitoring post for the moment. She rubs against my leg, then randomly drops down and rolls over, writhing with joy in the moment.

Musing on Dead Leaves and a Dead Cat


I spread a pocketful of cheerful autumn leaves across the dark mahogany tabletop, smoothing the curling edges flat, admiring the precise indentations of the maples, and examining the green stripes and purply spots on the rust-colored beech. I’ve brought in a leathery brown oak leaf, too, and I place it in the middle of the reds and oranges and yellows.

I’m thinking about burying the cat. First I think, at least it’s not the dead of winter, so I won’t have too much trouble digging a deep hole. Then I think of all the critters here in the woods of New Hampshire, and how they might dig her up. I think how unfair: that I would be burdened with another loss so soon after my brother’s passing. Of all the cats I’ve had, this one’s my favorite.



Then she comes downstairs.

She’s not dead, I just thought she might be because she didn’t appear as soon as I came in from my walk. So my mind wandered into worry and then decided to embark on a full expedition. This is how my mind works since my brother died. There’s a low-level anxiety lurking amongst the dendrites and ganglia in my brain, keeping me ever vigilant and ready for the next crisis or tragedy.

Sometimes the bump on my nose must be cancer. Sometimes I know someone is angry with me, but I don’t know who or why; I just know I’m in trouble. Sometimes, my familiar to-do list will bring on a near panic. Sometimes my cat is dead.

Thing is, the worst has happened. And it happened almost ten months ago. But I’ve only just stopped keeping the cell phone by my bed, finally realizing there will be no more nighttime emergencies. I will not be called into action. I no longer have primary responsible for any person’s health or well-being except my own. My mother is dead; my brother is dead.

Given those parameters, everything is fine. I am still alive. My cats are still alive. I’m doing pretty well, really.

I guess it will take time for my tired reptilian brain to come back to center, to stop anticipating disaster. In the meantime, I go for walks in the woods and collect pretty leaves. And I write.

Halloween Art — Or Not.


I’ve noticed that a lot of bloggers pay no attention to the cardinal rule of blogging, so I’m not going to either. It’s Monday; it’s the day I blog, cardinal rule or no. The cardinal rule is this: do not blog when you’ve got nothing to say. It’s disrespectful of your readers, and it may even be a good way to lose a few of them. But . . . 

I got nothin’. Nothin’.

Just because it’s Monday doesn’t mean I got somethin’.

Even worse than babbling when you have nothing to say is starting your blog with a lame teaser, like say, mentioning a cardinal rule of blogging that makes everyone curious about what that might be . . .  when actually, all you are going to say is nothin’.

Blackjack Poetry

I joined a poet’s group this month: Blackjack Poets. You do three stanzas of seven syllables. For twenty-one. That’s it. That’s somethin’, though, right?

So here are a couple of somethin’s of twenty-one syllables but not much else. Sorry.

‡ I’m not a rhymer, per se,

but sometimes — on a good day —

you may find I am OK.

‡ The neighbor’s cat crossed the line

when he ate my jasmine vine

and sought wrens on which to dine.

‡ Writing to write is not right.

I write to express myself.

I am blank, so I’ll shut up.

As a bonus for putting up with me, here’s a picture of me getting a pumpkin painted on my face. Hey, I told you I had nothin’. Happy Halloween!

harvest festival 2013 009.b

Where I Am


The hermit thrush is nesting farther away this year, yet his evening song still drifts across the meadow to the porch where I sit with my journal awkwardly perched on my arm to accommodate the cat in my lap.

The bird’s new territory is at the edge of ‘my’ forty acres, which of course belong to him as much as they do to me. My ancestors have been here in southwestern New Hampshire just seventy-five years – who knows how long his line has blessed these woods and meadows with their ethereal songs?

The thrush music blends with the faint trickle of a wispy creek at the base of the granite cliff that borders my property. Later this summer, the creek will disappear underground.

There’s a spring over there somewhere; I remember it from when I was a kid, but I haven’t been able to find it lately.

These quiet waters flow over meadows and through woods, past horse pastures and chicken pens, down, down this mountain and into the rushing Ashuelot River. To my citified ears, the river sounds like distant traffic until I remember where I am.

I smile.

The cat lies purring in my lap, her paws busily kneading as she sucks on my tee-shirt, a kittenish habit I assumed she would outgrow, but which comforts her still as she approaches old age.

I am, in theory, vacuuming. But what a waste that would be of this magic time of day when dusk turns to dark, and shapes darker still move across the meadow amidst the early fireflies.

Last year I saw a fisher cat slink across the lawn — a vicious relative of the weasel  — and I often see a shadowy silver fox trotting up the lane.

Here is a star. And now another.

The owl gives fair warning to its prey. Woo hoo – hoo hooooo.

The cat jumps off my lap and hurries to the door.

Night falls.

Night Falls

Night Falls

Knowing Love


They say that familiarity breeds contempt, but I would argue the opposite. For me, knowing and being fully known is downright holy.

Let it all hang out.

What you see is what you get.

Take me as you find me.

I would rather not have to wade through a bunch of BS before finding the authentic you. And Lord knows I have wasted enough time and effort over the years erecting barricades and tricky funhouse mirrors to hide the real me – even from myself.

But in recent years I’ve been working on getting to know myself better, and as I become familiar with the good, the bad, and the ugly, I am also learning to love myself.

For me, familiarity runs through everything that I love.

The Question

Today the WordPress Gods have posed the Daily Prompt question:

We each have many types of love relationships — parents, children, spouses, friends. And they’re not always with people; you may love an animal, or a place. Is there a single idea or definition that runs through all the varieties of “love”?

So that’s my answer to their question — familiarity.

Knowing God

My main love affair is with God. My Higher Power. Whatever you want to call the spirit that hovers around our heads and hearts causing love. Of course, any idea I might have of God is not actually God, and my inability to grasp the spiritual realm with my intellect pretty much guarantees that I can’t become truly “familiar” with God, no matter how much prayer or meditation I might engage in.


I think we can, however, become familiar with God’s ways and with the evidence of God, beginning with the ground we walk on and the air we breathe and the water we drink.

In the book of Romans in the Bible, it says that “what may be known about God is plain” because God has made it plain: “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal  power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

I take this as a clue that learning about the natural world and spending time in it will help us get to know God. I know that many of my friends who do not believe in God still have a sense of the holy when they are out in nature. I personally believe that’s the Creator knocking.

What Has Been Made

What Has Been Made

The category of “what has been made” includes a lot of things I love…I see God in all of them.

Other Things I Love

I love my friends. Nothing beats getting together with my oldest, dearest friends – it’s like finding a favorite comfy sweater in the back of the closet and snuggling into it. We fit.

I love my family, even their annoying, familiar quirks. My brother and sister have known me since before I was born. How cool is that?

I love my church community. They are my chosen family. It’s where people encourage me to continue to grow into the real me. They know me, love me, and forgive me.

I love my cats. I love that I know everything they are going to do at every moment of the day. How they move to the sunny square on the hallway carpet after the warm spot I’ve left in the covers has cooled. How Mayasika rushes to block my path when I’m going upstairs so that I will scritch her back. How Eliza Bean comes into the kitchen at lunchtime and stands on her hind legs waiting for her cheese.



I love my town. The smell of popcorn in the town center when the theater opens each evening; the Coop grocery clerks who know my name and ask after my sick brother; the annual meetings that always go late into the night because people can’t get enough of talking about our little community.

I love my house, even though it’s usually trashed and causes me great stress and embarrassment. It is home. It is familiar.


As I write, I’m realizing that I am talking about something beyond familiarity. Beyond knowing and being known.

I’m talking about belonging.

A sense of belonging is the thread that runs through everything and everyone that I love. This is what grounds me.

What about you? What binds together the things that you love?

Shift Your Perspective: The Best Laid Plans…


The car is packed, and I’m ready to go. Depressed, but ready. I just have to suck it up, and get on the road. I always feel this way when I close up my little New England house for the winter.

This was a good trip. I did a lot of writing, although it wasn’t necessarily what I had planned to write. But as they say, the best laid plans…

With a ten-hour drive ahead, I don’t have much time for journaling. I’m making good time with my to-do lists, and it’s only 7:30 a.m. All that’s left is to turn off the water and catch the cats. They’re usually behind the sofa bed. Peace out-

You’re walking funny this morning. Faster, like something’s up. Plus, you are talking out loud and we creatures of fur are not in the same space with you. You do not have the shiny black noise-maker in your paw, either. Who are you talking to? Something is different.

A zipper! I’d better make myself scarce. Last time you found me behind the sleeping place; where to go?

I’m back, ticked off because I only had thirty minutes scheduled to catch the cats, and I can’t find Eliza Bean. Maya was behind the sofa bed, but Eliza seems to have vanished. She’s too big to fit behind the stove where she used to go when she was a kitten, and I know she’s not behind the laundry hamper because I can always see her tail.

Weird. Well, it will only delay me more if I write – I was just frustrated and decided to vent.

Eliza Bean

Eliza Bean

I can’t fit behind the big box that gets hot anymore. Besides, you know that place. And the place you put the stinky skins you shed is too small; my tail sticks out.

 I am not letting you put me in that Mover. I feel sick in there, and there’s no room to stretch and no sunshine to nap in. You know we don’t like it, you know it. I hear you coming – where shall I go?

Hey! What’s in here? Brmmpp?


I cannot believe this. Eliza has managed to pull down a panel the plumber left leaning against the upstairs bathroom wall, and she’s gotten inside the wall and underneath the bathtub. I can’t see her, but I know she’s in there. Shit. What am I going to do?

Perfect…. It’s nice and dark. Mew. Spider webs.

Ouch! What’s that awful noise? My ears hurt. Are you doing that? You are hurting my ears! Ouch, my foot! I’d better go farther back here. Stop! Oh, you are going to be very sorry for this.

I’ve tried blasting rock music, banging on the bathtub, thrashing around with a broom. She’s not budging. This is crazy. It’s noon already. I’m going to kill her. I ought to board her up in there and leave her.

Oh now you have your sweet voice. The one when you want me on your lap. No, I don’t want treats. No, I don’t want food. I am not coming out. This puffy stuff in the walls is soft, and it’s still a little warm over the place of fire. I will have a nap. We will all just stay here for the afternoon until I am ready. I know you won’t leave me.

The old house has seen a lot in 225 years. Some of its favorite dramas involve this family and its felines.

Quiet Hills

Quiet Hills

In the 1950s, Grandmother’s white cat, Feather, played the hiding game and spent a whole day tucked behind the books on the living room shelf.

Then there was the one called Aunt Valerie, whose cat hid out in the woodshed and got sprayed by a skunk. Thirty years later, the house can still sense the smell.

And there was this one’s mother with her orange tabby, Triscuit, who slipped into the basement crawl space and delayed their trip home for two days.

Orange Tabby sleeping

The house thinks this one wouldn’t be so angry if she would only remember that these escapades turn into favorite family stories.


Yawn. It’s getting dark and chilly in here. I think I’ll go down now. I wonder if you’ve got any Trout Feast. I think I’d like the kind with gravy.


This post is in response to the WordPress weekly writing challenge: Shift Your Perspective, encouraging bloggers to write from different points of view. It’s first person, second cat, and third house.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Shift Your Perspective | The Daily Post.

Birthing a Blog


Birthdays are a time to reflect and take stock of where we are. For a two-month old, that wouldn’t normally entail much. But after traveling to forty-four different countries and being ogled almost two thousand times, my baby blog is no neophyte.

Hence, a moment of reflection on Writing with Spirit’s two-month birthday.

birthday cake large

First of all, thank you so much for reading, or even just for scanning, or glancing at my photos. Special gratitude to my forty-five “followers” (such an ostentatious phrase). I can’t tell you how much that means to someone who still doesn’t feel comfortable being labeled “a writer.” I’m sure some of you bloggers can relate.

Yesterday, I had a writerly moment. Unusually enough, an actual editor was waiting for one of my essays. I was ransacking my house looking for some lost interview notes I needed to revise the piece, when I remembered that I still had a tape recording of the interview.


I unearthed the recorder, pressed play, and … nothing. The whole thing had been erased. This is not supposed to be possible, as in order to erase a file, you must provide two forms of ID, and then press three buttons simultaneously while reciting your social security number backwards in Swahili. Then the little screen says, “Are you sure you want to do this?” You say yes, and it says, “Really?” and you scream YES, DAMN IT, YES, YES, YES!!  So after my technology had betrayed me without so much as a PIN number, I was tossing papers into the air and cursing and even crying a few tears of frustration, when I suddenly stopped and thought –

Wow, I am a writer.

I don’t know why being thoroughly disorganized and panic-stricken matched my image of a writer, but there you have it. To complete the picture, I probably should have knocked back a tumbler of bourbon, neat.

I winged it and got the essay into the magazine editor. Nothing left but to wait for the rejection. (Even at my tender writing age, I’ve learned to be a cynic.)

All this to say that I think I’ve written more regularly in the past two months than I have since I started my writing career at Johns Hopkins University three years ago. A blog is great discipline. There’s accountability, even if it’s mostly in my head.

I’ve learned to observe more and to listen better, and life seems more interesting when I anticipate that I’ll be creating something fun out of it. Colors are more vivid, jokes are funnier, politicians are even more absurd.

The WordPress Photo Challenges were a wonderful surprise. I have thousands of fabulous pictures that I never share with anyone, and I’ve so enjoyed the challenges and the diverse group of people who “like” my photomontages. Even real photographers! I’ve tried mixing a little poetry with the pictures, which is new for me.

Another fun discovery has been all the good writing floating around in the blogosphere. I simply had not surfed around much before I started my blog.Wonderful fiction, poetry, writing advice, and travel adventures! Kudos, bloggers!

I am a Cat Person

I have, until now, resisted putting in a picture of my cat. But now that we’ve known each other for two months, it’s time. Isn’t she just the cutest?

Eliza Bean


On a more serious note, authenticity being good for the soul, I have shared some traumatic truths about sexual harassment and my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.



I’ve talked about life and death and politics and a way more eclectic collection of topics than I had planned on, from God to climate change to Henry James.

As I dimly recall, this blog was supposed to be primarily about spiritual and emotional de-cluttering. https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/emotional-house-cleaning/

Who knew how many synapses and leaps across random neural pathways that would involve?

Thanks for being along on the journey. And thanks for coming to the birthday party.

Tell me, WordPress compatriots: what have you learned since your blog was birthed??

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