Dear writing sisters,

For a number of years now I’ve taken to decorating the corner mantel in our family room in place of a tree. I string it with star lights that twinkle, then I add ornaments that conjure snow–a snow owl and a tree made of feathers, white poodles with silver glitter, silvery pheasant feathers (perhaps this is why Steve calls me Pheasant?!). I hang silver ornaments of different shapes and sizes that reflect the starlight, and I top the mantel with a silver dove. Then I finish it off with silver bells that my aunt Terrie gave me each year for Christmas when I was a teen. If you look closely, you can see them hanging in the photo where, in years gone by, people who lived in this old house before us may have hung stockings.


This “mantel of light” has become my focal point on dark winter mornings. I sit across from it at the start of each day, sipping green tea, then meditating, before I write. This year, I’ve been practicing a form of meditation called “loving-kindness.” The practice is to offer loving-kindness toward yourself and others. I have borrowed Sharon Salzberg’s words–“May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live in ease.”–to establish my own loving-kindness practice in the glow of these lights. But you can offer any words of loving-kindness that suit your needs and sensibilities.

A few weeks ago, my aunt Terrie suffered a heart attack, and I spent many of these dark mornings sending loving-kindness to her as she fought for her life. When I opened my eyes at the end of each loving-kindness meditation, the first thing I saw was the twinkle of lights from the mantel: a flash of light, a blip of dark, a flash of light, a blip of dark. As the room beyond the mantel came back into focus each morning, I began to think: joy, sorrow, joy, sorrow; light, dark, light, dark. And doesn’t this capture what it means to be human?  The dark and the light inextricably intertwined to create a twinkle where light gives way to dark gives way to light.

Terrie passed away on Sunday. This season, as I count my blessings and mourn my losses at year’s end, I am struck anew by our capacity as human beings to hold both joy and sorrow at the same time, an ability that allows for a twinkle in the balance.

As this season unfolds and 2018 draws to a close, may you experience the full range of what it means to be human, and may you discover in the balance your inner twinkle.

And may your twinkle guide you in writing and in life.

Much love,


P.S. If you wish to learn more about practicing loving-kindness, Sharon Salzberg offers a free guided loving-kindness mediation at Mindfulhere.

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