Why Dogs? December 18, 2018

Recently my Pack has experienced significant losses.

Thanksgiving weekend, Hannah and Molly pushed out the door with the faulty latch and disappeared over the horizon. I found Hannah’s body at the pound on Sunday, November 25, thoughtfully wrapped in two plastic bags. She had been hit by something, and her jaw was broken. She was still soft, so it was a recent event. Joe and Marsha helped me take her to the crematorium. Hannah MacKenzie was four years old.

Two days later, Wednesday, November 28, after Joe and Marsha continued the quest to find Molly, she was found at the pound. I went up on Thursday after work and bailed my girl out of Puppy Prison. She came home with a limp, a sore abdomen, and a new attitude – which we need to work on. Molly Regen is two and a half years old.

The following Sunday, Maeda Jayne, my 13-year-old, had what appeared to be a stroke, and was not well.

On Monday, Joe and Marsha picked up Hannah’s ashes and brought them to the house.

The next day, December 4, 2018, I came home to find Maeda struggling for breath, looking like it was going to be our last good-bye. It was. She and I sat together, exchanging memories and snuggles, before she took her last breath, wagged her tail, and was gone. The dogs outside began to howl.

Joe and Marsha came again to help take her to the crematorium.

On Wednesday, I passed Glorianna to a neighbor, because I did not have the energy for this shepherd mix puppy, formerly of San Carlos Apache Reservation.

On Wednesday, I found lesions on Freckles, and some odd growth around her lip.
She and I went to the vet on Friday. She was banished to quarantine for ten days. Freckles McGee is four and a half years old.

The neighbor brought Glorianna back home.

Molly and I are negotiating her responsibilities in the Pack.

She growls at everyone, including me.

She still gets sore if we walk more than a half mile.

Interlude: I celebrate my father’s birthday December 6, also St. Nikolaus Tag. On this day, I found a gold and sapphire ring in the mud at school. It fits, so I assume it is a gift from the Earth, my dad, and my dogs. Happy St. Nikolaus Tag, I love you, too.

The school where I work is fraught with trauma, violence, and daily overdoses of anxiety and chaos.
The nights have become impossible at home – nightmares, my own anxiety attacks, and the chemistry of grief.

Never mind that Christmas is coming soon, and my family in the East are not the Magi.

I am a wreck.

Many of my friends and most of the community wonder that I have a multi-dog Pack. Some have been gracious, even though they don’t get it. So, I am writing this essay as an explanation, of sorts.

Why Dogs?

Why dogs?

Because everyone needs to love someone and be loved in return.

Why dogs?

Because they get all excited when I’m around, anxious to spend time with me, overjoyed to just hang out. Not once have I ever heard them say, “Wow. I just wasted 70 minutes talking to you.”

Why dogs?

Because in the middle of the night, when the nightmares are too strong, I wake up, and lying next to me, against my body, their head or paw on my leg comforting me are good friends. Not once have they said, “Just drink a beer, and go back to sleep.”

Why dogs?

Because when we are playing, and a right hook catches my cheek, it is because we are playing, not because I confronted my mother’s addiction and her right hand cracked my face into the next county, leaving me dazed and confused, in tears in the kitchen.

Why dogs?

Because if I want to go for a walk in the rain, the snow, or on a cold day, they wag themselves silly with anticipation. They don’t sigh deeply or in scorn, asking, “Why kind of idiot goes out in weather like this.”
I do. Does this mean I’m an idiot?

Why dogs?

Because I like to hike, to camp, to travel, to explore. I don’t have a husband (divorced), an elder brother (former addict, now deceased), a father (estranged, now deceased), or other male relative to protect and defend me because sexist societal rules say I should not go out ‘alone’. If I had succumbed to the notion that ‘girls can’t/shouldn’t’, I would never have seen the Great Divide – in the dark because, on our way from Arizona  to Connecticut, 2015, I had to pull over so Hannah could piddle; from the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, 2016, when we headed north to avoid a tunnel; from  the northern end – which included my first sighting of sheep, mountain sheep, long-horn sheep. All this with dogs in the car, wanting to get out and take a look, too.

I cried with sorrow that the people I left behind were not there to share this with me. But, they’ve seen it on television, and for them, that is enough.
It isn’t even close.

Why dogs?

Because I love the sound of coyotes and to watch the night sky – especially when the coyotes are close, and my dogs howl with them.
I am more alive when we are outside, in the woods, among the coyote and the elk, the pine and the wild turkey. Among the Wild Things.

I don’t need to explain this to the dogs. They come back from their expeditions, grinning from ear to ear, covered in the weeds and mud of the local pond or creek, tired, exhausted, exhilarated.

They know.

They, and the illusion that minute measures of tent fabric will be enough to keep out the bear, the lion, the whatever that thing is that is breaking through the underbrush at three in the morning, make me feel safe.

One dog invites a visit from a stranger: “Need help setting up the tent?”


Two dogs invite a conversation from a respectable distance as they gage my ability to set up camp alone.

Three or more? People nod and walk on, making comments like, “Nice dogs you have there.”
Morgen used to wag his 98 pounds at them. Duncan stood closer to me. Maeda Jayne, all husky and shepherd, gave them the ‘look’. Hannah used to bark them away.
I don’t know, but I get the feeling Molly has taken over the care-taking position, practicing her growling at the puppy, and her hair-raising barking at the Mastiff next door.

Why dogs?

Because God can’t be everywhere. He sends companions, guardians, protectors. But even they go away. Morgen is now romping through the Eternal Woods with my grandfather. Duncan is somewhere listening to Johann Sebastian Bach play the Brandenburg Concertos live – and waiting for me. Maeda Jayne is with my grandmother, swimming with the mallards and geese. Hannah? I don’t think Hannah has left just yet. Her Spirit is here, training Molly. Protecting our Pack.

Kyte, Bruno, and Abigail Fenstermacher, Meshach, Patty, and Sam, who came before, remember.

Why dogs?

Because it is lonely without them. Times are uncertain and I need reassurance. But, I wonder if Molly prefers to run free. Then I recall Hannah’s fractured jaw; the dead and rotting corpses lining the road where I found Freckles; the cold and rainy night Molly was abandoned; the emaciated bones and skin Glorianna wore the day we met.

I know that I cannot prevent violence. I can not stop addiction. I can not change society’s rules.
But I can live.

And I do.

With dogs.


January 2, 2016 Hannah at the Lake

Hannah at Roosevelt Lake, Arizona



Maeda by the Shetucket River, Connecticut


Lent: A Letter to a Friend

Lent: A Letter to a Friend
(Otherwise known as “Minding Your Business”
c. Spring 2002
Amy Lynn Reifsnyder
When I was a Sunday School Superintendent, and teacher of an age-integrated class, I had the opportunity to talk with the kids (ages 4-15) about the Season of Lent. As you know, this is the time Christians celebrate as the Prelude to the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Traditionally, Christians chose to ‘give up’ something they value in honor of the sacrifice the Christ made. The kids asked me what importance this tradition had to their lives. I suggested that, by denying something they loved, perhaps they would find it easier to turn down something tempting that would only bring them grief, such things as fighting with their siblings, participating in parties their friends had, shoplifting from the local store…that sort of thing. They listed their vices, and their favorites, and then decided which of the delightful, delicious things in their lives they could bear to part with for forty days. We talked, too, about how we could support one another’s choices. Praying was an option, talking to someone, sending each other notes. It was an interesting season. The class talked about how they felt, the temptation, the desire, the frustration, the guilt if they broke their commitment ‘just this once’. We talked about how we felt about each other. And in the end of the Time of Trial, we also celebrated the victories. The pride and renewed sense of self-confidence of those who had made it through was evident on their faces and in their voices. Those who had ‘failed’ were forgiven and encouraged to try again. Together, we celebrated the Resurrection, the gifts of renewal and new life. It was Easter, after all.

Which brings me to this.

I’ve been thinking about your life these days and thought maybe I’d meddle enough to send you a ‘note’ of support during the Season of Lent that is going on in your family. See, from my perspective, I see you as a responsible, caring, loving, adoring parent, daughter, teacher, friend. I also witness your frustration, fear, uncertainty, sorry as you work through the transitions of life among your family – your folks, your children, your beloved, and the energy you devote to your profession. You not only are supportive of the people to whom you are related, but also to those of us who are honored to be among your colleagues. I see you maintaining your cool, relieving your stress quietly, professionally. I wonder if things are handled this way at home.

I have been speculating how you might be feeling after the most recent event involving The Evil Car and your daughter. I think one of the hardest things about parenting is realizing that no matter what or how a child is taught, inevitably, they turn out to be themselves. It may have been you who carried this child, nursed her, fed, clothed, and sheltered her, disciplined her, played with and loved her. And no matter what you did to try to guide her and encourage her to make the ‘right’ decisions, she is still herself, and will make the choices she will.

Where am I going with this rambling? And what does it have to do with Lent? It’s like this. Yes, your daughter may break your heart by being disobedient to you. She may appall you by breaking the laws of the state. You may think her dim-witted for risking her life and the lives of her friends. You may just be extremely frustrated that she has managed, by her actions, to throw a wrench into an already uncertain car situation. But she has also expressed some pretty powerful personality traits, characteristics that I, personally, admire. This child of yours is not afraid to take risks, not afraid to defy authorities she disagrees with, is considerate of her friends, and trusts your love. In her Season of Lent, she has chosen to give up the comfort of her childhood in your home. In her Season of Lent, she has chosen to experiment with personal choices that may cause her to lose privileges, as well as your trust and respect. This takes courage. She has also risked the value of your love for her. She may be a young woman, but she still needs to know whether or not you love her. Or, now that she is maturing, are you just relieved that she won’t be ‘your responsibility’ any longer? Among her peers are youth whose parents wouldn’t even notice she had taken the car, let alone given her rules to follow. Among her peers are those whose parents wouldn’t have gone to the accident site, let alone shown up with hearts full of fear and concern. Among her friends are those whose boundaries are so far removed from the family unit that they would not have bothered to call home. Your daughter has risked giving up you, not donuts, not chocolate, not their cell phone – you, her mother and her friend, just to see if she could. And she can’t.

With my lecturing finger at the ready, I tell you that you have done a fantastic job as a parent. This daughter of yours is a strong-willed, independent thinker – a rare commodity among today’s youth. This daughter also feels safe within your family; this feeling safe within a family is also rare. I am not suggesting you not discipline her. If you didn’t, it would defeat the purpose of her whole enterprise. But, (I say as I waggle my finger at you), you may not discipline yourself. No late-night murmurings about what you ‘should’ have done, what you ‘could’ have done. You are doing what seems to be one of your best traits: you love your family.

Your children will continue to be who they are, just like you will continue to be who you are. During this Season, I would offer you what support I can. It is my way to meddle, you see, and to mind your business.

Stand strong in the desert places. Reject what is false. Suffer through the long, lonely night. Forgive the denial. Rise.

Kids, after all, are only lent.

With prayers, hugs, and love,

The Ugly Step-Sister Amy Lynn Reifsnyder February 7, 2020

The Ugly Step-Sister
Amy Lynn Reifsnyder
February 7, 2020
My house smells like dead mouse. We are engaged in the Mighty Mouse Massacre around here these days, and I think somebody got thwacked by the snap trap or one of the dogs, and has gone off to decompose somewhere out of sight. I am telling you this to assure you that I am not perfect, nor is my household and life always in order. This becomes an important fact to bear in mind as this essay unfolds. For those of you who have been reading my recent essays, you may have gathered I am having difficulty with my spiritual identity. No, not my sexual identity – which I know some of you have been questioning because of my recent – and lifelong – support of people who are gay. I am not gay, lesbian, homosexual, light in the loafers, a dyke, a … whatever the current labels are. I am a straight heterosexual woman who thinks women are anatomically incorrect when it comes to who I want in my bed and body. But the bottom line (no pun intended) is, as long as you are not molesting someone else, I don’t care what you do with your sex parts. That’s your business. End of that discussion for the moment. Let’s move on.
Today I want to talk about the Family of God. This is the title of a song by the Bill Gaither Trio that I learned when I was a young teen. It’s a beautiful anthem and was pretty much the underlying creed for why I took the bold step to follow Jesus as my Lord and Savior. If you’ve missed the Family Essays, you may not understand how necessary it was for me to belong to a family of love and brotherhood – God is my Heavenly Father/Mother and Jesus is my Divine Brother. Did I want to be adopted into this Family? Yes. Oh, very yes! Where do I sign up?
I became one of those annoying converts who carries stones of judgement in every pocket and a backpack full just to be sure I never ran out. My parents were going to hell because they smoked cigarettes – they’d be familiar with flame and ash. My biological brother was off to the Bottomless Pit because he used drugs. (Well. Wait. There is something about that that turned out to be almost true, at least for a while.) The neighbors… The kids at school… The government… You name it, I had a judgement already signed and sealed just waiting to be delivered by God’s Right-Hand Maiden! ME!!!
Until, of course, that Divine Family I had become part of sent me a few Messengers and a Holy Cow Spirit! Dale and Karen Preiser. Best Youth Ministers EVER. We bunch of awkward and gnarly teens would go to them on a regular basis and want to get the Inside Edition of How to Save our Family and Friends. We’d throw accusations around like confetti at a jubilee. And you know what they said? Over and Over Again? “Go read what Jesus said were the key commandments.” We did. “Well,” Dale continued, “once we have that ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ thing mastered, we’ll move onto the other rules.” He gathered up our stones, used them to mark the kick ball field and we went out to play.
A little later I met a Catholic priest who was always a priest, not just on Sunday. I’d attend mass regularly, simply because I liked the guy. His recurring sermon? Love one another like God has loved us. Even when he aged out into dementia, this was his recurring lesson. Got to love a man who spends his dying words telling the world to love one another, even though he had not always been shown love or appreciation. Made me wonder.
I am one of those people who have often moved – for a job, for a boyfriend, for the hell of it, because the beach was four hours away, because the Rockies were further, because the rent was cheaper. Throughout this mad adventure, I visited churches and other houses of worship. I met with Buddhists to chant and breathe. I enjoyed celebrating Ramadan with a group of women who made me realize how cool a group of women could really be. I didn’t swim in the hotel pool when the Orthodox Jewish family came for a dip – I’m a goy and the kids were not allowed to be around a scantily clad Gentile woman. No big deal. I could swim later. The kids were grateful.
But one of my Christian friends had a canary. A cow. A fit of grand proportions.
Why would I make someone else’s religious beliefs more important than my desire to go for a swim in a public pool?
My answer: Because it was the right thing to do.
She ranted on and on about it being a public pool and I had every right blah blah blah.
I moved on. Concerned about her ire.
For a while, I worshipped with a bunch of people in a small mountain town. I wasn’t particularly welcomed, but I had tried the other church in town, and definitely didn’t belong there, not being from the proper Scandinavian background.
Never mind.
Which brings me to today’s presentation.
I have moved – again – into a small rural town. This one is on the edge of the high desert at the foot of the mountains. I have been attending a lovely church with some very genuinely caring people. Or, at least they seemed to be caring, until I started to voice my opinion and share my experiences. Now, I don’t go there anymore. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to invite those Christians – and not just the local bunch – who have never been anything but, to step way out of their comfort zones and visit a different church. A different house of worship. Meet the People. See if what they have memorized and wear on their clothing actually holds up when confronted with Differences dressed like other human beings. Oh, I know, Paul was all about keeping separate from non-believers. This would be fine except Jesus said, Go and share the Story. Who you gonna follow? Paul or Christ? Just asking.

Or, when someone else comes along and sits in on a Bible Study, why not demonstrate good social behavior and shut the hell up and LISTEN for a switch? What makes you think you have all the answers? I ask this, because, Let Me Be Clear – You are not the Christ.

I know that I am not. I am not even close. I am still working on that Love your neighbor thing. Because, quite honestly, I don’t love you. I do not. And herein lies my current spiritual dilemma. I may not cast stones of judgement. I am supposed to love this woman. This man. These people – these ‘Christians’ – who drive me up the ‘blessed’ wall and over the edge of my patience and sanity. I am supposed to welcome them as a Sister in Christ. A Brother in Christ. Part of the Family of God.
Makes me want to grit my teeth and snarl once or twice. But I have not been called to be the Ugly Step-sister. I have been called to LOVE MY NEIGHBOR AS MYSELF – even if, especially when, the neighbor is a self-righteous sanctimonious prig of a human being who runs around spouting Scripture and saying things like ‘Have a Blessed day.” I, the one who has experience in this behavior, am supposed to pray. And love. And that’s it.
Not my favorite thing to do.
So, if you hear me glaring at the next Christian who says ‘God bless you’, throw a prayer my way. My hands are busy trying to ignore the rocks in my pockets.

Letter to my pastor Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

Hello,  Pastor,
I wanted to let you know my frustration is not about one person or one incident. 
I have openly listened to people share their ideas and opinions, but when I shared my own experiences I was literally shouted down or whispered to, informing me what I know as truth was in fact, a lie.
The weekly sympathetic/sanctimonious prayers for someone to leave behind the homosexual lifestyle have denied the real life experiences that have impacted the humanity of the gay community.
Hearing parroting voices denounce all political candidates other than Donald Trump as demon possessed reflects a serious lack of free thinking.
Insulted because I spoke about scientific data to denounce vaccines as a cause of autism was rude and downright ignorant.
I have repeatedly been told my views are based on false doctrine and lies.
Yet no one was willing to consider that maybe they are wrong, and maybe I know a thing or two because I have not separated myself from friends, family, colleagues,  neighbors, who are gay, Muslim, Hindi, Democrat, Republican, Liberal, and Conservative.
I don’t rely on political and religious pundits to tell me what to believe. I meet people. I listen to their stories. I learn from their stories.
I don’t pounce on them, tell them they are not in God’s will, judge the choices they made based on experiences I will never understand.
It is not safe for my friends to come into [this church]community. And, I have decided that I will not continue to be allied with such a group of people. I have tried to engage in intelligent discourse, but they don’t want to listen to anything but what they’ve been told to believe.
My God is bigger than the Bible, greater than one religious dogma.
I was so hoping I had found a community with which to worship, but I am tired if being shouted down, told I have no understanding,  and insulted.
This is not love.

Homophobia as an act of distrust in God Amy Lynn Reifsnyder February 2, 2020

Homophobia as an act of distrust in God

Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

February 2, 2020


Have you ever considered that homophobia is an expression of a complete lack of faith? According to religious dogma, the Sons of Adam and Eve were instructed to go forth and bear fruit, populating the world. A little later, the Sons of Abraham and his various women were told their number would be greater than the number of grains of sand along the sea or as many as stars in the sky. Later still, there was the Roman Empire, the Ku Klux Klan, and other imperialistic organizations and hegemonies that strode to populate the earth with mini-Romans, mini-White people, etc.

From the statistics on global population, I’d say they did their job.

However. Swept into this task and ideology are also condemnations of sodomites, people who engage in ‘unnatural’ sex acts – you know, sexual expression without reproduction. And this is where the hate begins, smack dab up against a fear that maybe God won’t be able to populate the earth if manmean (as opposed to mankind) doesn’t take matters in hand and forbid, deny, imprison, murder, etc., those who are not reproducing.

As a side note and short digression, it isn’t just the gay community. Those who were/are barren were/are forbidden, denied, imprisoned, murdered, worldwide. We just blend in easier. If we want, we can even wear false baby bellies and then either have a false miscarriage or adopt someone else’s child.

But back to homophobia.

Have you ever considered that, even without a consensual denial of non-productive sexual behavior, God might just be able to do what He said He would – create descendants that number the stars? Do you really think you are doing His work by rejecting the neighbor, the relative, the co-worker, the barrister, simply because that person’s sexual life – which is really not your business in the first place – doesn’t create babies?

For those of you who don’t live where public stoning is a recourse, I suggest you review the number of suicides, especially by young people, who have had it hammered into them since before their birth that being gay/lesbian is evil, sinful, an act of Satan (aka the Devil), and yet they are gay/lesbian. Homosexual. Generally, we do not dig a hole and toss a sack over their heads before pummeling them to death. We are more subtle. We cause so much internal turmoil and public humiliation that thousands go silently into their death simply because their sexuality interfered with your ability to trust God, and your inability to love them, just as they were made.

This breaks my heart.

Never mind that we are human and Animalia, and there are species among us which switch gender when their communities are overpopulated. Never mind that babies are born with genitalia of both genders. Never mind that many people do ‘choose’ to be gay as a response to sexual abuse. Read that again. People choose to self-identify as homosexual – and suffer all the hate associated with that label – because it is easier than the kick back, rejection, and shunning that too often follow sexual abuse.

Makes a statement, don’t you think? It isn’t just the gay or barren communities you/we are not treating to love and kindness, we are still invoking Old Testament laws that blame the victim, create outcasts.

Which brings me to the Jesus thing. Jesus did not talk about homosexuality as a sin. Paul did. You remember Paul, right? Zealot Roman bent on murdering Christians until he had a vision and then went on to be a heavily publicized pro-Christian Zealot who still retained his Roman inclinations against non-productive sexuality. Paul was still hoping for a Roman empire, albeit full of Christians. His previous ideology included creating mini-Romans, so, it makes sense that he would have a fit about homosexuals. It makes sense, too, from a historical perspective, that he would have some knee-jerk responses to Greek society and the Spirit of Christ moving among them. Must have been more than a challenge to come face to face with an entire nation which openly supported homosexual sexual expression, partly because they lived on islands with limited resources, and had to maintain sustainable populations or die as a nation.

Whenever I hear or read Paul’s comments about wishing people could be like he is, I translate it to the modern ‘Whatever’ thrown around by so many Christians who fear taking time to review their faith in God, their Trust that maybe God can do what He said He’d do, with or without their interference and/or help.

My reasoning? Check out what Jesus said when the Roman authorities suggested he get his followers to stop the parade and the shouts of ‘Hosanna’.
If even the rocks and stones would sing His praise, maybe we’d better just stop the hate speech and take notice.

If you are allowing someone else’s sexuality to interfere with your relationship with God, it isn’t the other person who is at fault. It’s you.

Things to Consider when Hiking Amy Lynn Reifsnyder Originally posted on Facebook, January 7, 2018

I posted this two years ago on my Facebook page. Still relevant. FYI, Maeda was my husky/shepherd. She passed December 2019.

Amy Reifsnyder
January 7, 2018 ·
Things to consider when hiking unknown terrain:
#1. Take at least one bottle of water for each participant, including the dog(s). Sooner or later, someone will need to rehydrate.
Keep in mind, that 30 to 40 minute “walk” you planned may end up being a 3 to 4 hour “hike” if you miss your turn.
#2. Know what time it is, and where the sun is situated in the sky as you leave the house/cabin/tent/whatever.
#3. Remember, the sun “moves” from east to west, through the southern sky.
#4. Do not, under any circumstances, hike unmarked trails on an overcast day. You, too, might be late for dinner. (We’ll discuss a Thanksgiving hike with Maeda some other time….)
#5. Honor. Admire. Revere the elk. But do not follow them. While they may not have bad intent, they most likely are not heading back to your house/car/tent/cabin/whatever.
Fairy light will get you lost, too.
So will your husky.
#6. Be able to recognize your outward bound footprint. You may need to follow it back if you miss a turn or something… just sayin’
#7. Be kind to everyone you meet in the woods. For you will see them again, and remember that you were really not all alone after all.
#8. Keep an eye on the sun, and get lost accordingly. Don’t panic. Orion will be up later, and his belt will show you where the East is as it rises, and where due West is when it sets.
You’ll be fine. Chilly, maybe, but you’ll be fine.
#9. Feel the blessing. Be grateful for the sound of traffic or back hoes, as they may lead you to “civilization”. Don’t worry about your knees; they’ll be fine.

I didn’t kill the bougainvillea January 7, 2019






I didn’t kill the bougainvillea

Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

January 7, 2020


Hectic season

of chaos and Christmas

Uncertain future

in turbulent times

Cold icy mornings

bring rain in the evening

Snow only falls

Out of reach

Out of time


Despite all this mayhem

Converging with sorrow

Leaves turning brown

Falling down

The parsley strives upward

Defying the muses

And I didn’t kill

the bougainvillea

~ this time.

An Extraordinary Life November 13, 2019

An Extraordinary Life

Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

November 13, 2019

I am living an extraordinary life. On the surface – and to a recent ‘doctor’ – I have no stable life. According to her, because I have been traveling from state to state and living from hand to mouth, I have no support. She informed me – and I did not tell her otherwise – I have no family, no friends, no community, no life. I did not correct her because I know these things are not true. I also know she would not have heard what I could have told her about my family, my friends, my community, my life.

Yes, on the outside the particulars may appear unusual. The wind and weather have been fierce so the dogs and I sleep in the tent – in the living room – at night. The heat has not yet been turned on. In fact the fuel tank hasn’t even been delivered. So things get chilly on a blustery cold night. Three dogs, two sleeping bags, and a pair of overalls are all this girl really needs to stay wrapped up cozy.

We have no electricity so I am working out of the house of a man I’ve never met. He spends summers and autumns in Montana. While he is away, his daughter and son-in-law invite, with his permission, folks to use his house. I am just one of several who take shifts in the house, working, sleeping, eating, hanging out. The water is turned off, so I daily bring several gallons of water to use when cooking, washing the dishes, or flushing the toilet. I do this because, despite having no heat and electricity, I have water. Cold water.

The water is a gift from the local pastor and a number of parishioners of the First Baptist Church. I’m supposed to be paying the bill, but the plumbing needed repair. He came over and did the repairs – plural… there was the fountain outside, the volcano that took off the top of the water heater, the never-ending stream that flowed from the bathroom sink. There was also the puddle that gathered downstream in the laundry room when I washed dishes in the kitchen sink. It’s been, shall we say, a ‘process’. But now I have water.

For hot water I set up a camp stove – double burner, on loan from Ginny and Bob – in the back yard. That’s where I wash the dishes, heat water to use to clean the cupboards, make myself a cup of tea.

For showers, I have options: Valley of Fires Campground is four miles west. Ginny and Bob, have a bunk house with a shower. They’re out south. Laura is east, and I’m heading over there today to do my hair. In between times, I use that cold water – yikes – or body wipes to do the necessaries.

Shelter. Heat. Electricity. Water. All this and a house with my name on the deed. Go figure.

The dog water was only partially frozen this morning, so it wasn’t terribly cold last night. And, just for the record, it’s mid-November and I haven’t had my annual respiratory infection. Wonder what that’s all about.

Dr. Who Has No Clue informed me I have no family support. Well, Mom has Alzheimer’s, my two brothers are dead, and my sister is overwhelmed with her own family. It’s kind of hard to get help from the dead and (what’s the opposite of ‘lucid’?). What I didn’t tell her is I have two cousins who still love me and an aunt who is 93 (or 94?) and sends me letters at least once a month. These days she’s even using slang. I am a little concerned about this because I have never, in all my 58 years, heard the woman use the term ‘super’ except as the prefix to ‘market’. Where did my Aunt Shirley get to?

As for having no friends, I sorely considered stopping Dr. WHNC in her tracks, but that would have ruined her day, so I just up and left. On my way out to the car, I began the litany of names…Sure, they live all over the place, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about them. It surely does not mean they don’t care about me. What kind of life does this doctor have that she thinks it’s necessary to live hand in glove with ‘friends’?

Shaking my head.

Yes, I need a new Primary Care Physician. However, the first one I ‘met’ was on a computer screen. No thank you. Not ready for that kind of medicine.

I have insurance. A fluctuating but steady income. A car that could use some attention.

I have a computer and watch the news, Netflix, and whatever youtube video I need to learn how to take care of my new home. I listen to music and occasionally sing along.

I visit via post, phone, text, Facebook, and Messenger. Sometimes I even go in person. No kidding. D’ya want to know what else? Sometimes I even get company at my house. Really.

I have the ‘fixin’s’ of a ‘regular’ life. But – and this is where it gets to be extraordinary –

I have frost on the window that sparkles in the morning, much like the grass in the back meadow of a New England home I lived in for 13 years.

There are clouds on the horizon that give the impression of a rainy day at a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Sure, I’ve visited a few. But I lived at several for many years.

There are mountains on three sides of town, a lava pit and desert on the other side. I’ve lived with these before, so I am among familiar places.

Orion rises above my house.

The Big Dipper hangs low on the northern horizon.

The sun still rises in the east and sets – amid the most glorious of sunsets – in the west.

I’ve seen meteors fly – in New Mexico, Colorado, Maryland, New England, Pennsylvania, … –

Who says I don’t have a home? It’s just bigger than how many folks judge a home should be.

I get irritated by people who discard my experiences without even trying to understand. I belong to a gigantic circle of friends. I live on a beautiful planet in an impressive galaxy. And every day I see something amazingly beautiful and familiar that reminds me I am not alone. It’s hard to be lonely and depressed when the whole universe reminds me daily that I belong. Here.

So, sure I don’t have dish tv, a staggering bank account, or a cupboard full of chemicals known as ‘medicine’. But I have a life that I’d stack up against any of that on any day.

I’d start quoting a John Prine song here, but I don’t have copyright permission. Just join in on the chorus of The Spanish Pipedream….



Knee Deep in Change of the Same Old Thing September 28, 2019

To say

Amy Lynn Reifsnyder


Not much to say

Too much to say

I’ve sung this song before and before and before and before

And yet this time… like last time… this is where  I draw the line

Not this time like last time

I am done drawing lines

Every time I do the earth shifts its shoulders and the line moves

Waves in motion and I am no where near the shore


Boxed up

Surrounded by chaos

You chose the city and you feel the same way

I chose the highway the beach the mountains the ocean the desert and I feel

Too much to say

Your silence says it all

But still I miss you

Coming Home September 22, 2019

Grace Cottage
Autumn Equinox 2019
Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

for Morgen, Duncan, Maeda, Hannah, Glorianna, Nala, Elliott, WOL, Mr. Louis, Grace, Jasmine, and all the miles between us.
Happy Birthday, Kim, wherever you are.

Grace Cottage, Autumn Equinox, 2019

I’d like to tell you what happened, but when I begin to speak, I also begin to cry.
My brokenself is finding its way to healing
Because I stopped to see the ancient lava flow on my away from bridges I thought were burned
And were
And were rebuilt
Because she wanted to say good-bye and I wanted to say hello and the road between us finally merged like the highway lines a way in the distance.
Blood, tears, death, destruction, and a phone call from Mom – and the New Year began among friends and family and distance away from my dreams.
Two months of walking around in circles and finally, the walls fell down – Joshua and Jericho and trumpet swans
And aliens. Don’t forget the Aliens. Aliens from Out There, from Down There, from I Don’t Know Where I Belong
So I came back.
Again, I tell you, there is no such thing as death. Lava becomes yucca becomes pollen becomes hummingbirds who come to my bandana to bless my head my face with the whirring of many wings.
But there is no such thing as Death.
Walter said hello and welcomed me into his failing arms. I could stay until the rains began and then even Walter, Aunt Jane and Uncle Bob’s ‘Water’, let go and I am on my way away – again – into onto part of a Circle
This one leads me to a cottage remains of a woman I would have loved.
My furniture is already there – the table I left in Pennsylvania; the dressers I left in Massachusetts; the clock from my Aunt Shirley; the glassware of my mother; the antique ware I left with my marriage.
It’s already there. Quilts. Crafts. Even a treadle.
I am in this house as if the woman who lived there before me gathered the broken abandoned pieces of my life and stored them under her roof, in her heart, until I found my way home.
The Holy Mother I pray to. The Woman I knew as Libby, Florence, Louise, Shirley, Mom.
And Michael – you know, the Archangel? Grace – You know about Grace, right?
And then this house is mine. Dirt. Dust. Antiques. Projects. A yard. A garden. A home.
Because I know a woman who prays. And a woman who loves. And a woman who wondered if she could come to visit her family in my house.
The house I will move to next month. Next week. Next time. This time I have found a home, and it is between the mountains and the desert, under a sacred Southwest sky.
Come. Lookit. This. Here. Come. Welcome Home.