I’m in seat 23D on a flight to Seattle. I am in this seat by chance…or am I? Originally in a middle seat further back, I’d been reassigned so a couple could sit together. A happy little miracle: I’d wanted an aisle seat in the first place.


Intermittent turbulence makes me pause from reading. It causes me to be present; to notice things around me. My seat mate in the middle is reading Revenant. The woman by the window is asleep. The guy across the aisle watches the latest Jurassic Park movie on his laptop. The woman in front of him drinks vodka and seltzer water with a splash of something (cranberry juice?) that makes it a sheer pink color. She traces the plastic cup with fingernails painted black.


The co-pilot sounds like the laissez-faire host of NPR’s Marketplace. “We’re experiencing some bumpy air, folks, so keep those seat belts fastened while we hunt for a smoother ride.” My sleeping row-mate has pulled down the window shade to block the sunlight. I wonder what the terrain below looks like. Perhaps we’re passing over mountains.


Thoughts of my beloved Aunt Jo Anne bump at the edges of my consciousness. What is she doing right now? Is she hanging out at some heavenly kitchen table with my parents—cracking up at one of my father’s jokes; matching my mother’s beautiful smile with one of her own? I imagine her hearty laugh, followed by her signature sigh and “golly.” I’m going to miss her. 


I anticipate seeing my sisters and other family members—the positive side of attending a funeral. As we fly west gathering hours, a brightening occurs. Time change. Time change. Time change. I cherish the smoother air. Touchdown is gentle: a mere kiss upon the tarmac. We’ve been in good hands all along.










Book Favorites Round-up for 2015














It’s always fun to look over the list of books I read during a given year.

My 2015 selections ranged from mystery to romance to fantasy to non-fiction to historical. A genre rainbow!


Here are my top ten favorites, in no particular order: 


 1.   Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert


 2.   Epitaph, by Mary Doria Russell


 3.   Firestorm, by Nevada Barr


 4.   Dreamlander, by K.M. Weiland


 5.   Bitter Greens, by Kate Forsyth


 6.   First Frost, by Sarah Addison Allen


 7.   The Book of Speculation, by Erika Swyler


 8.   Tiffany Girl, by Deeanne Gist


 9.   The Hawthorne House, by Erika Roebuck


10.  Deadly Election, by Lindsey Davis 



Happy New Year! I hope your 2016 is blessed, peaceful, and abundant…and chock full of good reading.










A Voice in the Fog

I’d like to share a Letter to the Editor my sister Barb submitted to her local Colorado newspaper, Ranchland News. It ran this week. I’m proud of her for being a bright voice in the fog.

Dear Editor,

I can sum up the reason for the recent shootings in America in one word - hate. These violent acts are fueled by anger and hatred against fellow human beings.

It concerns me that politicians like the Elbert County Clerk and Recorder and Commissioner Amy Lathen are contributing to the violence in Colorado by breeding an environment of hate. I am shocked that a public official is allowed to display prejudicial material in a government building.  

I am also alarmed at the time and energy spent by Amy on ignoring medical marijuana laws (a constitutional right) that were voted in by her constituents, many of whom are disabled veterans. Amy's disregard of the Colorado constitution and public hate for our president seems very unpatriotic. By opposing diversity, and having intolerance for anyone who disagrees with them, these politicians are inviting haters to act violently.

It saddens me that people use Bible verses, taken out of context, as a reason to hate others. I have read the Bible from Genesis thru Revelations, and there is nothing about hating your neighbor, judging your neighbor or withholding from your neighbor. Quite the opposite actually.

How would it be if Colorado became known as the love state, rather than the hate state? If our politicians encouraged diversity and acceptance rather than intolerance and narrow mindedness?

My Christmas wish this year is for an infusion of love to engulf Colorado and the United States. And for our politicians to stand in love and right thinking. I send love to Amy, the Elbert County offices, and all the other haters during this Christmas season. May we all remember the real meaning of Christmas.

Peace to All,

Barb Angell






Humanity (and Magic) at Wrigley Field



A professional baseball game is a dandy place to experience humanity at it’s best…and it’s worst. Take the Cubs/Mets playoff game last Wednesday evening at Wrigley...


When my husband, son, and I arrived early enough to watch batting practice, the atmosphere was magical: It was a beautiful, warm evening. A soft breeze blew in from Lake Michigan. Kids (and many adults) wearing mitts vied for the attention of generous outfielders in hopes of getting a ball tossed their way. Onlookers cheered for the lucky ones. Lively organ music added an old-fashioned touch. Even the moon was adding its luster to the proceedings.


I was smitten. How fun! How family-friendly! “This really is the friendly confines,” I remarked to my husband, who gave me an indulgent smile. “I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since I’ve been to a game.” (My husband and son typically attend a couple games during the regular season.) 


Out there on the bleachers, we were surrounded by people in full Cub-fan regalia. I felt like I was peeking in the door of an exclusive club that had plenty of room for more. I was becoming more sentimental by the minute. We’d been handed a small white towel with a big blue W (aka, “the W flag”) at the gate. I had it ready to wave.


And then the game—and my education—began.


Top of the first inning:

Drunk fan behind me (DFBM): “I’m so sorry!”

“That’s okay,” I say good-naturedly, while wiping beer off my shoulder and arm. “I’ve got my towel.” My husband and I grin at each other. 


The Mets score 4 runs.


Bottom of the first inning:

DFBM: “I’m so sorry! Listen, I know exactly how you feel. If I do it again, you can beat the [stuffing] out of me.”

Since the Cubs were already down by 4 points, I laugh and say, “Listen, if the Cubs win this game you can pour beer on my head.” 

A pause. “Really?”


Top of second inning (4-0, Mets):

DFBM to his equally drunk friend (EDF): “Hammel is throwing [bleeping] meatballs.” 

DFBM to the world at large: “Get Hammel the [heck] out of there!”

Father and son (F&S) four rows back: “Let’s go Cubbies! Let’s go!” (clap-clap)


The Mets score 2 more runs.


Bottom of second inning:

DFBM: “I’m so sorry! I promise I’ll never spill beer on you again.”

I sigh. He’s sweetly contrite. My husband asks if I’d like my raincoat. “I might,” I say.

EDF to umpire: “Are you [bleeping] blind?”  (Mind you, we’re over 365 feet from home plate…)

DFBM: He’s hitting [bleeping] meatballs!

DFBM to hitter: “You [stink!]”


I listen, amazed, at these guys and many other fans around us yelling obscenities at the Mets AND the Cubs. “Why do they do that?” I ask my husband. “Why aren’t they more supportive?” He shakes his head and shrugs.


Third inning (6-0, Mets):

EDF to DFBM: “Wood came to put the fire out with his gas can.”

I think, Yay! Something positive.


Top of fourth inning (6-0, Mets):

DFBM: “I’m so sorry! I promised I’d never spill beer on you again. Listen, I owe you one.” He repeats this several times.

I wave him off. “No problem.” My husband places my W flag around my shoulders. 

F&S: “Let’s go Cubbies! Let’s go!” (clap-clap)


Bottom of the fourth inning: 

Cubs score! We all perk up. The diatribes soften.


Fifth inning (6-1, Mets):

EDF and DFBM on their way to get more beer. Hand on my shoulder. “You want one?”

“No thanks,” I say, lifting my water bottle. “I’m good.” (When they come back, we lean forward until they are settled.)


Sixth inning (6-1, Mets):

There’s an atmosphere of despondency. What happened to our winning team? (We beat the Cardinals, for Pete’s sake!)

The vitriol toward both teams increases exponentially. 


Seventh inning stretch:

The magic comes back temporarily while we sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” I pull the cloth off my shoulders and sway it back and forth like a banner of hope.


Seventh inning (6-1, Mets):

A DF (in front of us) yells at a Cub outfielder who missed a catch: “[Bleep] you and your [bleeping] glove!”

DFBM to EDF: “This is a microcosm of my life. Just bring me here and take out my heart.”


Eighth inning: Both Mets and Cubs score two runs. The energy escalates. We’re cautiously hopeful. 


Ninth inning (8-3, Mets): 

EDF is escorted out after nearly (deliberately) pouring his beverage on my son’s head. (My son had the audacity to stand up with 99% of the crowd and cheer his team, blocking EDF’s view. I had to use my mom voice on EDF, a middle-aged man.)

F&S: “Let’s. Go. Cubbies. Let’s Go! C’mon people, stand up! Let’s go, Cubbies. Let’s go!” (clap-clap)


Neither team scores. Final: Mets 8, Cubs 3. 


It was quite a night. In terms of observing the human animal, it was a rich experience. My takeaway is that there is a spectrum of fan support. I may not understand or identify with all the expressions of it, but even the most verbally-abusive fans seem loyal.


I was most impressed by the father and son who remained positive inning after inning. While they didn’t have a winning team, they showed unwavering support, sacrificing their vocal chords in support of their beloved Cubbies. In my book, that’s a home run. That’s the magic of baseball. I wish I could give them a hug and a throat lozenge. Maybe next year…











Vistas of the Heart

It’s July again, the time of year I wax rhapsodic about the sky. I love the mountainous clouds that linger on a calm day, and the intensely blue sky that fades into a softer hue near the horizon. I smile and take deep, satisfied breaths. 

We recently traveled to Arkansas for a family gathering. Indulging my nostalgia, we took the older highways through the Ozark mountains. I was reminded how gorgeous northern Arkansas is, with it’s wealth of natural beauty and expansive vistas that fall away from the edge of the road. Those vistas took me back to my childhood. On a particularly steep and winding stretch near Jasper, I looked back and exclaimed, “I remember that view!” 

My Girl Scout troop frequently went camping in state parks. We’d be driven in an old school bus by Mr. Pickett, a nice man who must have heard every campfire song ever written. We’d serenade him as we drove up into the hills, around the hairpin- and snake-curves. I thought about this as my husband navigated a tight switchback at 5 mph. Mr. Pickett must have had nerves of steel.

Seeing my hometown elicited many memories and emotions. Seeing old haunts, old friends, the parking lot next to the college chapel where our house used to be, improvements made to the college—now university—where my father taught, and the town itself that hasn’t changed much over the years…  These things forged a renewed connectedness to my past.

We buried my mother’s ashes next to my father’s grave, closing a thirty-five year gap. My mother had made the most of those years—reinventing herself after being widowed at 56. At the graveside ceremony, loved ones offered words to describe her: generous, loving, gracious, determined, kind. (Words that could equally be applied to my father.)

Under the artwork of summer sky, I reflect on the first July without my mother. She would have been 92 next week. Gazing into the vistas of my heart, I see a woman who left a legacy of love and modeled social consciousness. It is a sweet view.






Lasting Impressions

What began as lunch today, ended up as art. After finishing my salad, I realized that beet juice and olive oil had left an interesting design on the plate. A tree, perhaps? Coral?


The words lasting impressions whispered through my mind. Isn’t that how art (of any kind) touches us? It imprints us with something—leaving behind a sense of wonder, amazement, indifference, anger, or call to action. 


My family headed to Michigan over spring break to visit the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA). What a stellar museum! Our initial draw was the “Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit” exhibit. It shows preparatory drawings of Industrial murals that Rivera painted at the museum in the 1930’s, as well as Kahlo’s artistic efforts that began during that time.


Both the exhibit and the murals were fascinating. Rivera was a champion of the common worker, and managed to stay true to his principles while pleasing the wealthy industrialists who hired him. Kahlo’s work ranges from whimsical to disturbing. I sensed that she was a strong woman who wasn’t afraid to confront her inner demons.


We experienced serendipity in the form of a photography exhibit by Corine Vermeulen. This Dutch-born photographer was commissioned by the museum to show the vibrant diversity of the local communities. Young and old, rappers, students, dancers, bicycle enthusiasts, gardeners… The photographs are incredible. What really struck me was how Vermeulen captures the essence of a person. Almost no one is masked beneath a smile, but oh, how their eyes project the depths of a beautiful soul.


There are many interesting collections at the museum, and it was wonderful seeing new-to-me work by Impressionist artists I love, such as Monet, Renoir, and Mary Cassatt, and modern artists such as Dale Chihuly.


It was fun to experience the DIA with my husband and our two children, both Art + Design students. It was a sweet adventure that will stick with me a long, long time. And Detroit itself? It is a city of contrasts, with the potential to burst into bloom once again when the conditions are right. I truly hope that happens.