Debby Silence

She left me with so many memories. She saved my life more than once. But the story I want to tell is when I knew that she was an angel walking this Earth. We had a book club once a week and would meet at Shannon’s business.

I pulled up to Park and there was a homeless man walking down the street being a little bit belligerent and I was a little bit scared. I finally got into the building and I don’t remember what happened while we were all inside but I remember that someone called 911. Then we look outside and I see Michele walking straight for this belligerent homeless person.

She sat down on the ground next to him and she held his hand. She talked to him and listened to him and sat there with him until the police arrived. I knew at that moment I wanted to be just like her. She was so kind and loving and brave. An Angel. I will miss her so much.

Amanda Powter

So many memories of a shining light of a person.

So many memories of a shining light of a person. When she babysat us, she would insist we built forts and play right with us as we crawled around under blankets and propped up couch cushions.

In our play hospital, she made us “medicine” of milk + sprinkles (which melted and ran with color in the milk — the closest thing we got to candy most of the time as kids).

Taking us out to the Bon Marche to buy one outfit for school when we didn’t usually get brand new clothes — we could pick anything we wanted — I got *two* t-shirts of different colors that I could layer and then roll up the sleeves to look very cool, I thought.

And I also remember the softness of the seats in that land boat car and how cool the blue flames were. And then reconnecting with her after a long time and feeling just as loved and seen and happy to have had her in my life.

Nyasha Stowell The Driveway

This is a driveway awaiting its potential. Waiting to be filled up with people and cars. This is the driveway of the house in Snohomish.

My mother was a person who loved to have people around. Her driveway was always ready to have cars stuffed to capacity in it. Her doors were always open to anyone who wanted to come. She was there for people when they felt they just couldn’t go home and there when they just wanted a break.

A typical Saturday morning might mean cars filling this driveway and humans sleeping precariously all over the house. She was my mother, but also a mother to the world.

I am so thankful that I got to be a part of it all and got to see this beautiful example of love.

Rosanna Monson Wang

I’ll be forever grateful that she provided a safe space for us kids to hang out where we could flourish and be ourselves without judgment.

One of the prominent (of many) memories is when she officiated our wedding. It meant the world to us and made our day even more special.

A few recent memories that stand out:

Visits with our baby girl, Sarah- I specifically remember sitting in the living room with her cracking up while we watched Sarah crawl around the house and chase the slightly bewildered cats (Carrot and Angua.)

This last summer we had a picnic under an old maple tree in the backyard of her childhood home. The weather was perfect, and she was radiant, as always. I’ll never forget that day.

She was always so kind and welcoming to everyone. I’ll be forever grateful that she provided a safe space for us kids to hang out where we could flourish and be ourselves without judgment.

199 Writing Death Instructions

People don’t do this well.  Because writing death instructions is hard.

And time consuming.  And annoying.  And not exactly how anyone would see themselves wasting time in the last day, week, or month of life.  Annoying again.

There must be an instruction manual.  Jan handed me a planner; it wasn’t personal at that point.  I can look for it.

My Living Will had a lot of spaces for instructions, long form, lots of blanks.

If a person leaves no guidance, it is very difficult.  If they leave instructions, that can be just as concerning.  Dad wrote a line on an instruction sheet.  “I would rather not live in a nursing home.”  It burns!  Pushing three years.  My heart aches for him.  

Service or no memorial.  Lots of people, only close people.  Musical choices, spiritual readings.  Casket or cremation.  Location of remains.  Disbursement of property. (Tip: don’t leave your underwear for your daughter in law.  Please throw away all of my undergarments!  Should be obvious. I don’t have a daughter in law, so hopefully this is just an echo of being one.)

It takes a lot of thought, a ton of conversation, and effort.

Kwami and I began a video journey around the house.  It is a start.  I am talking about what has history, and what is junk.  What items have a story or belong to certain family members in the event that the kids don’t want to hang onto the heirlooms.  Just stories.  History.  But the vase is just a vase without the story.  We finished the kitchen and family room.  The bedroom will be so much trickier, with all of the spiritual stuff and gifts received, the things I “value”, and that look like a cultural museum of oddity.  My artwork.  My creations.  Others’ forms of beauty.  

This is part of the adventure.  It is part of embracing the book we read months ago, Stephen Levine, A Year to Live.  Releasing.  Completing.  Untying myself from the stuff.  Going through drawers and stacks, sorting out the recycling and the items that are ready to be repurposed.  It is constant.  

We are being called to purpose.  We need to clear the clutter of the mind.  The clutter of the future.  The clutter that death clamors to create.

193 Eleven Days is Not Enough

And so on day twelve of the eleven day retreat, we Amplified.  The picture is of a flower stem, with the flower as shooting sun rays of yellows and oranges. 

photography of yellow hibiscus under sunlight
Photo by Khanh Le on

I can feel a real difference in my inner perception between the first day and this last day.  What I was needing was naturally there all along.  But that is always the case, right?  What we seek is always closer to us than breathing, nearer than hands and feet.  We just perceive that it is not.

My favorite model of this is the human interest in partnership, usually in marriage material partnership. It is human design.  We are not cats.  Cats usually don’t give a long term lick.  Their dedication is self centered.  Every feline action toward a human is about reciprocation.  What can a cat get out of you?  Are you worthy?  Do you fulfill the cat’s ultimate goals and missions?

Mic owned a cat named Chicane, maybe the best name on the planet for a cat with a kinked tail. Over time, Chicane wanted something different. Mic was no longer a viable candidate, so the cat picked a new one.  It moved down the block.  Of course, there is no legal divorce paperwork, and Mic could have forced the issue if the cat cooperated long enough to be caught, but who wants to capture that type of negative energy, especially when cats can get unruly and destructive?

So people seek people, almost mimicking capturing a Chicane.  I’m going to cut to the chase.  The best way to find a soul mate is to be at One with your soul.  The mate part is already there.  It just isn’t in the form of the Disney movie, the romantic comedy.  People who have long term partners do not have a Disney version either.  Humanity doesn’t work like that.  Partnerships are for growth, and growth is not pretty, not easy, and not very romantic as a whole. 

If we find ourselves in the category of seeker, it would be better to leap in to the world of reflection.  “I want someone to appreciate me.”  You probably have that.  Look for it in those around you.  Focus.  Appreciate it.  AMPLIFY.  “I want to be loved unconditionally.”  Hmm.  Not a human trait normally.  But you might find it in a really loving friend that doesn’t have to live with you. Or a dog.  Or God. The sunrise, the heartbeat, that stuff.  Again, focus, appreciate, amplify. “I want…”  

Honestly, really?  It doesn’t matter what is on the list.  You either have it or could have it with some minimal effort (touch was coming to mind, and a massage might be the answer if you aren’t looking for a hook up).  Fill your own gaps.  When we get the perception to align with the goal, then a partner either crashes into physical universe, or you find out you were really happy alone all along.

So for me to align with Emerging and Grace, the big picture was seeing that those qualities were there, crying out for attention.  They are a piece of my soul, a type of soul mate, dormant, or slightly ignored.  Perhaps not ignored, but needing to grow to higher heights.  Twelve days was not enough.  But it was a start.  And behind that seeking is a whole landslide of possibilities, qualities that want to speak to me, speak into me, speak through me.  And I’m committing to them.  

I hope if you have been following the retreat philosophy, you can also find something inside that is calling to you, that will move you to higher heights, something that requires a resolution that comes long before New Year’s and lasts a lot longer than the gym equipment.  Happy moments.  Happy amplification.

181 Surrender

I drew a picture of a bowl.  I tossed the words into it.  The words of ego, the words that trap and hold me.  They are not negative, just human.  But they are a trap.

Maturity, how it looks, doing it right, being strong, supposed to.  Self sufficient, organized, oldest, talented, complete, good.  Fit in, in control, smart, how it will be judged, daughter.  Health, wisdom, mother.

Surrender.  If I give these away, put the essence of my humanity on the sacrificial alter, surrender these paradigms to the Eternal, then what?  Am I free?  Do I have to pick them up again?  Be the same?

On the third day of the retreat, we embraced surrender.  I surrender the pain. I surrender the pleasure.  I surrender this health experience.  And I surrender appearances.  I am more than my list.  When I let it go, I can see the shimmer of my Truth.

150. The Chosen One

I was looking closely at the pictures of my memorial tree. The tree I have chosen. The surveyor spike is in the ground… with my name on it. Chills rattled my spine. And I laughed.

The marker reads, “Earth Sanctuary Memorial Tree, Michele Stowell, Western Red Cedar”. It’s a little bit like the headstones in the cemetery, the ones with a birth year, but no death year, because the person is ALIVE. Checking, ya, I’m still alive.

Karolynne ventured out onto the island the second day of our visit. We started our walk at the Earth Sanctuary on the side near the Stupa (the Buddhist meditation structure). We wandered down the hill and onto the trail by the pond, heading right. There were beautiful things to see, and amusing things (to the immature mind).

Rock Art at the Earth Sanctuary

We are still making comical comments about the rock sculptures that strongly depict the masculine and the feminine. Kwami wanted Karolynne to pose next to the masculine. She rightfully refused!

Michele and Karolynne standing on an enormous boulder near the Chosen One

As we wandered, we discovered an enormous boulder. The quote from Shrek is popping into my head. “I like that boulder. That is a nice boulder.” It is! We stopped to sit on it, or alongside it and pray. Kwami led a meditation, and we brought our minds to the world the Divine intends. And my tree watched.

It was an easy decision, picking this particular tree. It stands uphill from the “nice boulder”. If you quietly place yourself on top of the rock, facing the pond, listening to the ducks and frogs, the tree has your back, to the left anyway. To the left, to the left (you’re irreplaceable).

The cedar stands tall enough to have light and longevity. It can see all the ponds from the sky view. It is easy to hang out with, even if you don’t know which one it is, and can’t find the marker! The boulder is hard to miss. It just feels right.

When we were reading “A Year to Live”, by Stephen Levine, he urged us all to wrap it up. Take care of business. The shiver down my spine indicated something. Relief. Conclusion. Celebration. Elation.

This tree, the Earth Sanctuary, having made a decision for my ashes, elates me.

100 Taking Flight

We are everything that we can be for the world, expressing our colors, showing our beauty… boldly showing the world our exuberance, feeling the wind, the sun, the freedom…taking flight.

I was watching the outdoors from inside of the window.  A bright winged butterfly made its way across the yard and landed on a vine leaf maple.  The wings were stunning and open, broad for all to see.

close up of butterfly pollinating on flower
Sometimes we open our wings to take flight like butterflies. Photo by Pixabay on

And then it disappeared.  When the wings pulled upright, there was no evidence that a butterfly was on that leaf.  

I think we do that.  At times we sit still and careful, keeping quiet, hiding, perhaps afraid of the world that could swoop down and consume us.

And sometimes we open our wings.  We are everything that we can be for the world, expressing our colors, showing our beauty… boldly showing the world our exuberance, feeling the wind, the sun, the freedom…taking flight.