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Good Things

Good Things

In the past two posts, I’ve shared some personal health news. That’s not something I normally do, but for some reason, I felt compelled. I told myself that my little trial might convince someone to grab their hat as they walked out the door. I hope that’s true. But, I think, on some level, I was also reaching out for support. It’s scary hearing the “C” word. I am happy and relieved to share that the latest surgery produced good margins. From henceforth, I will be gratefully mindful of wearing hats and sunscreen.

In some ways, writing a blog is like a cross between journaling and sending smoke signals into the wind. You pour something of yourself into it, even if the writer is not actually the topic of the blog. In my blog, I thought I would share the beauty of the Rockies, maybe a little about my writing journey. My hope is that readers – you – will find inspiration in your own natural world. And, at some point, I hope I will be able to invite you into my world with writing workshops and comfortable writing retreats.

So, while I hoped to share my Rocky Mountain muse with you – a gift of natural beauty and inspiration – you have shared the support and words of encouragement that I needed to hear in the moment. Thank you for your kindness, so much.

More Good Things

The lovely Winslow Writers, above, have been preparing for a very special event. The Spring Equinox Reading will be an evening of stories, poetry, and music, featuring Royston Hunget on the fiddle.

If you can join us on Monday, March 20th, at 6pm, in Fort Collins, we would love to see you! Contact me here for further details!


Copyright © 2023 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.


Savoring The Beauty of Winter

Savoring The Beauty of Winter

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Snow falling on snow, the crackle of fire in the woodstove, a hot cup of tea, and a good book. As I write this, snow is falling. Owls call to each other from across the valley. The creek is hushed beneath layers of ice and snow. I love winter. The reality and the metaphor.

Steinbeck’s quote, above, resonates deeply for me right now. There are the changing seasons, and there are “Life Seasons.” And, really, what is life, but a season? We’re here for such a short time – there’s both beauty and loss in every moment.

I want to thank all of you who have sent encouraging messages since I shared my cancer diagnosis. I’ve had two minor surgeries, so far. The first was successful, but the second results weren’t to the doctor’s liking. They called this afternoon to say he wasn’t comfortable with the margins, so I’ll go in again next Tuesday. I’m grateful that he’s thorough. I know many of you have gone through this and come out the other side.

As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.” So, we’ll savor the beauty of winter, knowing that spring is on its way.

Copyright © 2023 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved


On Hope

On Hope

Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists adopt the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It is the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand.

~Rebecca Solnit

I learned today that I have cancer. Two biopsies both came back positive – one for squamous cell carcinoma, the other for melanoma.

Earlier this morning, I was listening to an On Being podcast with Rebecca Solnit, and I was moved by the clarity of her observations about hope. She’s written a great deal about finding hope in the darkest places, and the way our best selves emerge in a crisis. She spoke about the power of stories to influence our thinking – like “womb” and “tomb,” two words evoking dark places – one of nurturing, growth and possibilities, the other of death, decay, and returning to the earth.

I think they caught it early, but I don’t know. And it doesn’t really matter. Last week, I celebrated 44 years of sobriety – every day of it a miracle. And this day is no exception. Sunrise on pristine snow, critter tracks through the trees, a talk with my daughter who’s recovering from an illness (along with her daughter), a couple of short calls to catch up with friends, and then this afternoon with my mom, her laughing about the latest book she’s reading, later a good visit with a client who’s working on a fabulous book, and Craig calling to say he’s getting a car wash on the way to pick us up. Mom’s spending the weekend with us. She loves the fire in the woodstove, the snow on the trees. Says she’s not bringing her book, because she’s going to do some writing.

It’s these little things that feel so full of life and love and healing.

Mary Oliver said, “All eternity is in the moment.”

I’m grateful for this moment, and all it encompasses.


Copyright © 2023 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

Writing the Mystery

Writing the Mystery

Yesterday morning, I opened my eyes from meditation to see translucent bodies dancing outside the window. Gusts of wind were scooping up powder from the deck and sending it swirling into the east. Gradually, dark trees emerged from the foggy gloom like sentinels. I found myself transfixed; words formed and dissolved, as I grasped at the moment’s magic. What I settled on is this:

Morning dawns through mountain fog, as powdery snow puffs and swirls steadily eastward like a spirit migration.

And when I say “settled,” that’s what I mean. If I’d sat there for another hour, or the entire day, I suspect I would never have found the words to recreate the reality of that moment.

Life transcends words – every moment of it. And yet, I am compelled. I think we all are – writers – compelled to attempt recreation through inadequate words, and trust that those same words will take on a life of their own and create something new in the reader.

When I reread what I wrote, I see again the wonder of that moment, but the words also conjure up something fresh and original. My hope is that they will conjure, in the mind of another reader, something worthwhile in the context of their own lives. In this way, writers and readers move together through the mystery of this moment.

To my writing friends, I think you’ll understand when I say we must forgive our shortcomings and continue to explore where writing leads us, trusting that the words will find their way.

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
–Jack Kerouac

We’ve seen this bunny’s tracks for months, but here he sits in watchful contemplation. Wishing you all a Happy Lunar New Year!

“In Chinese culture, rabbit is the symbol of longevity, peace and prosperity. Rabbits are optimistic, kind-hearted, sensible and highly approachable.”


Copyright © 2023 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.





Two ravens alight,

share a branch in falling snow,

then fly away home.



Copyright © 2023 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.



You Do Not Have to Be Good

You Do Not Have to Be Good

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

Love what it loves.

~Mary Oliver, Wild Geese


Carols have been playing in department stores for weeks and holiday images permeate our media – homes lit with strung lights, greenery draped from banisters, candles glowing on mantles, families coming together in conversation, worship, and laughter. It’s all so perfect and lovely, isn’t it?

Well, there are lovely moments, sometimes strung together like prayer beads into a full day or more. But sometimes not so much.

When the kids were young, no matter how many times I told myself I wouldn’t do it, I succumbed to those heightened, commercialized, expectations. Craig reminded me the other day that one year we had six Christmas trees of various sizes and themes scattered throughout our home. They were beautiful but, in retrospect, a grasp at that shiny perfection we see on every magazine cover this time of year. If I weighed, now, the effort and expense in putting those trees up with the pleasure they provided, the effort would grossly outweigh the pleasure. And the sparkly dressing never really changed the reality of day-to-day life. Despite the splendor, we had family conflict (even more so because we were all exhausted), we experienced sadness and loss. I remember one year when a loved one overdosed and tried to avoid the paramedics by hiding behind the decorated tree in the dining room. The tree came crashing down onto the table, destroying glass ornaments and the centerpiece. In the end, none of that mattered. The only thing that any of us cared about was that a precious life was saved. We had more time together to learn and grow.

We’ve decorated our tree, hung the lights and set out the candles. Snow is falling and I put another log on the fire. It’s beautiful, and I still love it, but it’s not perfect. None of us are, and that’s okay. In the end, the only gift that really matters is the gift of time. The miracle of this moment.

If you or a loved one needs help, please don’t hesitate to ask for it.

Reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.

Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.


A Christmas Goodbye

A Christmas Goodbye

Decking the halls of our Panhandle Creek cabin.

After our separate Thanksgivings, our family hopes to be together for a string of December holiday celebrations. Mom will help us finish decorating the tree this weekend and we’ll celebrate our small cabin Christmas on the 18th with four generations. On Winter Solstice, we’re having a special reading at Mom’s Independent Living Facility, with readings by members of our writing group, other residents, and two special guest readers, Vicki Lindner and Sandra McGarry. Christmas Eve we’ll enjoy a quiet celebration in town with Mom, then the next morning we’ll see what Santa brought the grandkids. All of this depends, of course, on continued health. With the bugs circulating through schools and the community-at-large, we’ll take precautions where reasonable and hope for the best.

This Christmas will be bittersweet. If all goes according to plan, it will be the last year we enjoy Craig’s stonework. When we moved here five years ago, the previous owners had placed an old woodstove on tiles nearly in the middle of the floor. One of our first improvements was to purchase a stove that could be placed closer to the wall. Craig researched the codes and built the beautiful stone hearth and surround, and the pine mantle above it. I love those rocks, and I hope we can keep at least some of them, but next year the stove will move to new living quarters over the garage.

In the spring, we hope to break ground on our bed and breakfast. A longtime dream, the addition will dramatically change the configuration of our livingroom, while adding two gorgeous guest spaces with views of the creek and the valley. In this room, we’ll add a new stone fireplace, along with room for my piano.

In our family, we have always appreciated the extra goodness that comes with building, or baking, or creating with our own hands. When the grandkids ask for my carrot cake for their birthdays, or Craig’s homemade bread for sandwiches, it’s because these things taste a little better when they’re made with love. We’re excited about the changes, and look forward to being able to share our mountain B&B with friends and family. Like everything we apply ourselves to, these changes will be made with love. But now, working at the table while snow falls on the forest around us, I am looking through the white lights of our tree to the woodstove on Craig’s beautiful hearth. I’m grateful for him and the many ways he shows his love.


Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.


Cutting a Trail

Cutting a Trail

On Tuesday, we got a notice that the Asgard was blocked with fallen trees. We had adopted this trail a few years ago, cleared and marked the path and built several bridges. It’s fun work. We thought, at the time, that we might make it a weekly project and adopt a few more. The gods of nature and impermanence must have had a good chuckle over that.

Craig was evacuated by helicopter at the beginning of the season. He was in wildfire training when the chest pain came on, surrounded by medics. They knew exactly what to do, and not a second was wasted. I’ll be forever grateful for that.

Our life changed after his heart attack, but it was more than just cardio rehab. Our family needed more of my time. We began renovating the new cabin and mitigating the property around it. Craig started a new job that required more travel. And, if I’m being completely honest, I found the local politics disheartening.

We considered pulling out of the trail adoption program all together, but my friend and Greenbelt Management Committee co-chair convinced me to give it some time, assuring us that the trail was in good shape. I’m glad we did.

With snow in the forecast for Thursday, we took a long lunch on Tuesday and headed out. There were 8 or 9 trees down that Craig cut with his chainsaw. Together we rolled them aside and pulled the slash off the trail to redirect hikers. It was a beautiful day – the kind that reminds you what’s important. I’m grateful for my co-chair, Rachel’s, sage advice, and the reminder that life is always changing.

While we can do the work, we will. Happily.

Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

“Shadows of a thousands years rise again unseen, voices whisper in the trees, ‘Tonight is Halloween!'”

~Dexter Kozen

There’s no snow in the forecast here until Thursday, and the weather is even milder in town. Good news for Trick or Treaters! Growing up in Alaska, our Halloween costumes were purchased extra-large to fit over our snow pants and parkas. When darkness fell, about 6:00pm, the procession of children waddled up the snowbanks, bags in hand, fingers and toes turning into icicles inside our mittens and mukluks.  At the mercy of our parents and their flashlights, the evening never lasted long — though we protested we weren’t cold at all.



Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

Transitory Life in the Rockies

Transitory Life in the Rockies

The female mosquito lives approximately 50 days, while her male counterpart only survives 10. The painted lady butterfly, who spends summers fluttering among the Rocky Mountain wild flowers, has a life cycle of one year. The blood-sucking Rocky Mountain wood tick lives up to three years in the wild, and can survive 600 days without feeding. The life span of the deer up here is two to three years, mountain lions and coyotes live about 10, moose can live 15 – 25, and bears up to 26 years.

All of these sentient beings take what they need to survive, and leave the rest. The larger animals also leave footprints, fertilize the landscape with their waste, crush grasses and break branches as they move through the dense underbrush or bed down for the night. They leave a narrow wake.

In contrast, the life expectancy for a woman in Colorado ranges from 67 to nearly 90 years. I’ve been known to eat more than I should, put another log on and open the windows to listen to Pan Handle Creek, and more than one head of lettuce has sadly wilted in my veggie crisper – a despicable carbon footprint. While I’m keenly aware of the impermanent nature of our time in the Rockies, I find myself driven to leave some kind of lasting mark. I want to clear the land of dead wood, stack cairns, and build a stone path from the river all the way up to Moon Temple. I dream of one day building a garage with a couple of guest rooms, and inviting guests to enjoy a hearty breakfast before they hit the trails or spend the day writing in this inspiring environment.

None of us are guaranteed our next heartbeat, but if statistics bear out for me, I have anywhere from 10.5 to 32 years to fulfill these dreams. And then the hill will be overgrown and covered with the skeletons of our now-standing aspens and lodgepoles, the stones will creep and tumble down to the river under the hooves of large mammals and the freeze and thaw of winter, and the foundation of our establishment will crumble to dust in not much longer than it took for me to make my minuscule mark.

The Rocky Mountains were created over the span of 25 million years, beginning 80 million years ago, rising up from tectonic plates that are over a billion years old. In that context, not only my little mark, but the mountains themselves, are nothing but “a moment’s sunlight, fading in the grass.”

I learned this week that the sciatic pain that has been dogging me since a fall on the ice last February is the result of six bulging discs, one of which is compressing the nerve. I haven’t spoken to a doctor yet (and that’s a for-profit healthcare story I may write about another time), but the diagnosis was devastating. Why? Because it may limit my tiny mark in this place I love. Oh, how we form attachments in this life. There is a possibility that my mobility will dramatically change within my lifetime. Or maybe not. I really don’t know.

Today, I am typing by the open window while raindrops hit the decking outside. I just put another log on the fire.


Copyright © 2018 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.