Welcome to Shirley’s website & blog



The coyote was hungry. It had been a long winter. The snow had fallen, sometimes in soft blankets, other times in angry swirls. It had been mad to cover the earth. It had been pulled down from heaven and lay like diamonds, like cold ice queens, like angels with silver wings. But the snow had not known that it had covered up all the food, the food of creatures that had relied upon the earth’s abundance throughout the summer and autumn. Now, all was beautiful, all was bleak. One day Mother Coyote said to Father Coyote, “You are the wild call of my heart. You have given me the song of my child and yet we are hungry. I know you feel the need, the ancient call of survival. I will give up my need but, Dearest, not the need of our pup.” The coyote looked across the frozen field. Maybe, a desperate, white rabbit, looking for food for his family, will stumble and sacrifice, for us. Is it a game? Is it life? It doesn’t matter when it’s food one needs. So Father Coyote stood in the cold, the ice wind blowing his silver, brown fur. He sniffed, his eyes looking upward. He smelled something. It was life, blood coursing through another father’s veins. Father Coyote stood as though all things had ceased. “I must try.” He pounced through the snow, first smelling, then seeing Father Rabbit, as well, Father Rabbit seeing Father Coyote. Life was the only heartbeat. The snow swirled; the rabbit was gone. Father Coyote’s back haunches eased. His chest softened. His despair was great. He moved to go, but something held him. Later, in the warmth of his cave, he pondered. Was it a knowing, a silent voice, a gift of providence? But, there as the wind blew it’s message, uncovering the frozen body of a turkey, Father Coyote know his family was safe.


IMG_5269I relish a savory meal as well as anyone, preferring it to be eaten at dusk, still a whisper of light but fading while giving birth to the moon, rising up with new and distant life. You can have any combination of settings to make a memorable meal; rain, heat, companions, solitaire communion, rough carved table, dainty Parisian two-top, a blanket under the stars.  And as I said, the food must be savory, keeping in mind, just being hot does not equate cuisine. My father had once said, “Even when you find yourself eating alone, respect yourself and use a napkin.” I never forgot that. Pouring out a bowlful of Cheerio’s will not satisfy the spirit, ever. Eating and dining are two different things. I’ve tried both. Eating leaves me feeling like I did something quick, but I don’t remember what, while I’m still searching for something essential. Having a traveling husband, I find myself eating alone often. Sometimes it is a bowl of popcorn, but it is the best popcorn I can make. I reach for the blue antique bowl, the color never to be made again, a robin’s egg blue only a little deeper, I rub it with garlic, pop the corn on the stove, butter and salt it, pick a rose patterned napkin, a glass of white wine and sit in the window, watching the moon rise. My usual solo dinners are simple but nurishing and always beautiful. I think beautiful is a spice. I have hard boiled an egg, cutting it lengthwise, spreading a little mustard in the yolk, adding fresh dill, salt and pepper, with roasted baby potatoes on the side, simple but delicious. If I’ve had a hard day and I know it’s me and Brian Williams for dinner, I will pick up a small chicken, organic, of course, rub it with butter or oil, liberally salt and pepper it, tucking herbs under the skin-sage, oregano, thyme or sometimes a little lavender, which I will put with minced garlic. I throw in whatever vegetables I have, turn the oven to hot, really hot, crust the skin, cover the bird and finish it slow. It always makes me feel like something good happened to me.


IMG_3881I have wondered what I would admit to if I were asked about significant milestones in my life, if someone asked me to  tell of a meaningful experience or a small piece of advice. I wonder if I would tell of my troubadour husband and me sleeping in a cornfield one summer night, in our search for dreams and money. We listened to the dry stalks creaking like old bones, the leaves rustling in a silk slip waltz. We finished out the night in our car at the side of the highway, pulled safely off the road, overlooking a mountain river. In the morning while my husband slept, I found my way down the embankment, pulling off my tee-shirt and jeans then stepping into the icy water. The embankment was high and the cars went by fast. I looked up when I heard my husband yelling, “This is a highway! You can’t be naked down there!” I just laughed and continued to wash my hair, splashing and daring anyone to stop or slow down. I can still remember how my head ached with the cold after I rinsed the shampoo from my long hair.  I also remeber my hair and skin never shone with such brilliance before or since. I find nothing significant in that experience except I remember it, usually with a Mona Lisa smile. I might recall the evening my father and I sat in the doorway of his garage, sharing some talk, some silence and a beer. We gazed throught the thickening darkness at the outline of piney woods. He told me a true story of a beautiful woman, madness,  lost love and a heartbroke man. I remember the sound I made in my throat instead of crying. When we walked back to the house, it was full night, no moon, no stars, only miles of unforgiving darkness. If I were to admit to learning anything useful to help me throughout the second half of my life, however I don’t believe in rules or adages, I would say, have a sense of humor. When the pain passes, find somethig to smile about and listen for the coyotes. Their cry in the night might make anyone feel lucky.


IMG_0186Last night I woke up thinking I heard the coyotes howl. I listened to the stillness, like breathing, then the yips came again. But it was only Annie, our golden hound dog that reminded us of our Grandmother. She was chasing a coon or skunk, warning them to keep away from her territory. She protected the blue farmhouse and the surrounding gardens; the English rose garden, plump with fragrant apricot heads, bouncing and swaying on stalks of green with two inch thorns, like little soldiers ready to pierce a finger, an herb garden, packed with gray dusty sage, carpets of lemon thyme, herds of oregano used for fat circles of wreaths, lavenders, pink, French and English, and of course the two acres of vegetable garden. Annie had a small doghouse beneath the apple trees where she slept thru the day. At night she was a lone and valiant soldier ready for battle, but mostly given to chase. Listening until all was quiet, I laid back down, staring through the branches of the ancient blue spruce leaning against my window, to watch the full yellow moon on it’s wane, flickering and winking with each breath of cool, northern wind. It hypnotized me back to sleep.


IMG_0939Designing a friendship is easy. You move to an area where people are of a same ambition, life-style, religious persuasion or a financial bracket. You can join clubs, causes and charity works where people have a bottom rung on which to build friendships. I’ve had a few of these friendships which lasted till the cause ran it’s course and there was nothing left to talk about. Some of my most valuable friendships were completely lacking in design. They just happened.

One in particular stands out. She lived next door. We were not of the same religious or political mind. Our lives were not going in the same direction. I was a young mother and she was seventy-six years old when we moved in next door. In fact, we were as different as two people can be and still speak the same language. She grew up in Canada, riding horses, gardening and being educated when most girls back then were being courted. She was married at the ripe old age of twenty-five. They moved into a small rural town in Michigan, he an accountant, she a housewife, collector of paper weights, a raft for lost teenagers, a church member, a mother of two, and in the late years a mother to her twin grandsons. In spite of outward appearances, we became best friends. read more…

A Blessing







Old Time Lonesome

IMG_0276Here’s a new song for our album:


The woodpile is crumbling
The fields are now bare
The tractor is rusting
There’s no one to care

There’s no coffee brewing
The screen door don’t slam
The old stairs are quiet
The jars empty of jam

My folks have passed on
Tho ever so near
The sound of their voices
Still ring in my ear

The apples have fallen
The garden’s no more
The roses entangled
There’s nothing to store

The old swing is hanging
The chain broken down
The horse barn is leaning
No need for the town

My folks have passed on
Tho ever so near
The sound of their voices
Still ring in my ear

My mother’s not waving
From the window at us
Dad’s not telling stories
And making a fuss

The dinner bell quiet
The old rooster gone
The thistles are soldiers
Overrunning the farm

But I’ll take them with me
Where ever I go
My heart’s full of memories
They’ll live in my soul