When Water Does Not Cleanse

When Water Does Not Cleanse
September 15, 2018

The places I have lived
Are being hunted by a devouring god
Intent on wiping out the history of my youth
Waters rise and rage
Exchange destruction for memories of growth and laughter
Waterways swirl, enter homes,
Turmoil roils as it strips the walls,
Clears the basement
Molds the already decaying essence of my youth

Water rises, and I hear a song
Reminding me when Oceans Rise
I am still surrounded by Grace of a Higher God
One who understands destruction means Life, not Death

Waters rise
May my faith rise with it
To deny
This devouring god
Satisfaction of wicked intent

~ Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

Cape Hatteras, North Carolina – 1980
Chapel Hill and Wilmington, North Carolina – 1988
Ephrata, Pennsylvania – Hurricane Irene, when my family home was destroyed by rising water that did not cleanse

Found this while revisiting my past

Arizona is not a hasty lover. It takes you in slowly, and listens to see if you are in a hurry, and will pass her by. She does not put her best foot forward, but waits, patiently, to see if you will take your time, to wait, to see, if you will listen as she slowly, carefully, unfolds one secret at a time, enveloping you in love and understanding that is found in Solitude with Dogs on the edge of a lake, in the middle of the desert, at the edge of the world. Here. Lookit. This is who I am, says she, then wraps you up in dust and mirrors, showing you what Love looks like when it’s given for free.

When Water Does Not Cleanse ~Amy Lynn Reifsnyder September 15, 2018

The places I have lived

Are being hunted by a devouring god

Intent on wiping out the history of my youth

Waters rise and rage

Exchange destruction for memories of growth and laughter

Waterways swirl, enter homes,

Turmoil roils as it strips the walls,

Clears the basement

Molds the already decaying essence of my youth


Water rises, and I hear a song

Reminding me when Oceans Rise

I am still surrounded by Grace of a Higher God

One who understands destruction means Life, not Death


Waters rise

May my faith rise with it

To deny

This devouring god

Satisfaction of wicked intent


~ Amy Lynn Reifsnyder


Cape Hatteras, North Carolina – 1980

Chapel Hill and Wilmington, North Carolina – 1988

Ephrata, Pennsylvania – Hurricane Irene, when my family home was destroyed by rising water that did not cleanse

Strange but true – Who needs drugs when you have such a brain as I do?

Prayers please. I am being bombarded by negative energy, and an ongoing combination of physical weirdness…. Two weeks ago, I fell at work and sprained my left knee. Workman’s Comp and all that faldarol.
Next, We have three days of training, which means kids who already suffer from abandonment issues got a little testy with the sub.

I now have to use my “mean” voice more than  I like to.

Today? TOday (Tuesday) I had a migraine aura that required two meds and someone else to drive me and my car home.

Good. I’ll see if I can get to Dr. Charles for a tetanus shot; the leash burn from Sunday on the inside of the elbow looks kind of – ick.

No worries … until about 30 minutes later, an allergic reaction takes over my skin, my tongue, and my lips. The lady at the grocery store check out offered to have my whole order returned to the shelves while I went and got help. Kindness is not to be taken lightly.

Hello, EMTs, Paramedics, Emergency Room personnel, and several care providers.And drugs. Let’s not forget the copious quantity of antihistamines 1 and 2; antihistamine that provides stomach relief, which allow me to breath, which make me dizzier than before (I fell in the night, trying to get the dogs out to pee); and which put me to sleep. Include an anti-anxiety med to keep that dreadful feeling of “I’m-a gonna die if my breathing doesn’t improve” at bay.

Now for totally weird? I have not edited this part of what I wrote last night before going to bed. I do not know what sheep I was referring to, nor am I living in my brother’s house.

I will not be driving today. I will avoid the stove. I will avoid many, many things. This is weird….

“Next I’m at home. I may never leave. My left knee is in a brace; my right elbow is in tape; my knowledge of sheep continues to expand; and I am daily reminded that I am a usurper in my brother’s house. I just wish they’d give me the form.”

Any clues?

Feeling Skippy (you might have to be old to remember the program and the kangaroo, Skippy.)

 (Photo from GIF file on Facebook)

PS Be sure to let a friend go shopping with you, lest you come home without the prescription and a cart full of Hershey Chocolate bars, cereal, muffins, frozen coconut bars, and water…..

“Let your light so shine before men …” Matthew 4:16

because of I.B.
One of the best things about being a teacher is to be able to witness joy and wonder on a daily basis. Yes, the students are noisy. Yes, they don’t always do their work. Yes, there are moments when sorting sand particles sounds like a perfect job. And then, there’s today …
One of my students has spent the first three weeks of school pushing behaviors, vocal outbursts, and insolence to see how far they would get him.
They got him into the dean’s office with the principal and his mother.
He arrived in class today, sullen and uncooperative … and then, in the course of conversation, I suggested that, with his skills, he might be elder or council member some day.
He – and a number of his classmates – thought I was joking.
No, I said, you have excellent skills.
Like what? It was a challenge.
So, I listed some of his best attributes: no fear of standing up to authority; the ability to make and keep friends; willingness to defend himself; …
He looked at me doubtfully.
His classmates had stopped talking.
Yes, I said.
 His classroom skills need a tune-up. Now is the time to practice how to behave in community so when he gets out into a leadership role, people will respect him.
I have watched the sun rise after a lonely night.
I have witnessed light rays through mist and pine.
I have celebrated moonlight on the water.
And today. Today, I witnessed the same sort of miracle, the same kind of light.
This is why I teach.

Homework Assignment June 2018

Just posting a short story I wrote for a class. Feedback welcome.





For Pat McNeil; my brother, Jeff Reifsnyder; and my other brother, Paul Douglas

It was Wednesday night. My mother had volunteered to make the supper for the homeless shelter. That meant I had volunteered, too, whether or not I wanted to be.
I showed up at five, McGee, our Australian Heeler, tagging along behind me.

The kettle on the stove was boiling furiously when I walked into the basement kitchen of Our Lady of Perpetual Tears – Poor Mother, I thought, always sorrowful.

Steam billowed from the pot, reaching for the window, trying to escape. I should have paid closer attention.

“Where have you been?” demanded my mother, hacking away at the onions on the cutting board. A slender film of liquid cascaded over the edge of the sink, pooling on the floor beside her flip flop.

Onion tears.

I knew that tone. I didn’t have anything to feel guilty about, but even the dog slunk away, eyeing me cautiously, a timid nod of “good luck”. It didn’t matter that I had done nothing wrong. There was something on my mother’s mind that was going to soon be on mine.

I cleared my throat, to let her know I had heard the question. I was a little worried about that knife.


I knew I’d better make it short.

“Pat’s …,” I started.

“You should have been here.”

She tossed the onions into the scalding water.

“You saw your older brother drop kick the Kid.”

It wasn’t a question. I had been there. Jeff drop-kicked Paul, who fell and busted his left wrist. It hung like the letter “U”. Clean and nasty.

My mother grabbed a paper towel to wipe up the floor. Unfortunately, it didn’t tear when she jerked it. It unscrolled.

Across the sink.

Onto the floor.

I was jealous of the dog.

“God-damn it to hell and back,” she clenched her jaw. “These damn paper towels.”
The more she scratched at them, the further they rolled.
I could relate.

I started inching toward the dining room, toward the exit.


“Where do you think you’re going?” she bellowed, strangling a bunch of carrots, the dirt still attached to them began to drop. Escape.

I didn’t say anything.

And I didn’t go out the door.

My mother was crying. And it wasn’t from the onions.

“It was a nice service,” I said quietly, as the dog slithered closer, her tail quietly tapping my jeans. “They buried him under the maple.”

My mother didn’t say anything, just began flaying the carrots.

I took the pod off the car May 28, 2018

I took the pod off the car.
For most people, having a place to unload their traveling gear would bring a sigh of relief. Me? I am aware there is an unsettled nodule of panic in my chest.

It may have something to do with not having had the same mailing address for longer than a few months in several years. (Don’t even ask how many phone numbers I’ve had!)

Ignore that sleeping bag draped over the water bottles on the floor between the seats.

Yes, I have tents (plural) in the back, along with other varied and sundry camping equipment.

Eventually, I’ll add canned food and “emergency” chocolate.

You know. In case the dogs and I want to take a road trip and stay overnight.

Which we’ve done collectively for the past three summers. Back and forth from Connecticut to Arizona (twice), with variation on a theme, from Connecticut to Montana, and then, from Montana to Arizona – which is where we are.

I like Arizona. I even love Arizona. But I am not sure I actually want to stay. I look around me, and see cattle grazing on endless hills, dry and drought-stricken brush in the loveliest shades of sage and cedar green, an eternally blue sky, and, Thank you, Campers, not a wildfire plume on the horizon – and there is a lot of “horizon” where we are. But, what about Idaho (snow and majestic mountains)? Or maybe California (coastline and vineyards)? Or, what the heck, I could always go back to Pennsylvania where I was born. Or to Western Massachusetts and be around friends. Or New Jersey, to be with other friends… ok, no, not New Jersey (Sorry, Jennifer).

It isn’t that Arizona isn’t wonderful. I have a job I enjoy. I live where I can hear coyote sing. I awake to the sound of cattle ambling by on the dirt road that runs by the RV. There is a white-faced cow who has taken a special interest in me and the dogs. We refer to her as Mother. ‘Haven’t seen her calf yet, but rumor has it, there is one on the way.

But it’s this concept of “staying” that has me anxious  – you know, like not moving.  Not starting over. Not being the only person I know for hundreds of miles around.
I know where to shop. I have several churches I call my own.
And, I can take ballet classes (Ballet White Mountains, Pinetop), swim in a heated pool (Show Low Aquatic Center), and kayak on the lake (Sunrise – Big Lake – Lyman Lake).
Plenty of hiking, walking, exploring (just step off the porch).
Dead things from 220 million years ago lying about not too far from here (see “Growing Small”).

What’s not to love? Why would anyone want to leave?

Which seem to be the questions I have been asked since I won that trip to Disneyland when I was twelve, and flew over the Rockies, and then out over the Pacific before turning to head back to Baltimore, Maryland… and came home with a serious case of Wanderlust.

From there it became absolutely necessary to explore Philadelphia (by bus and train, an hour from Home). Later Boulder, Colorado. Then, Missouri. Ocean City, Maryland. Newport, Rhode Island. Scotland, Connecticut. Huntington, Massachusetts… and then …

My family worried about me. Some of them still do.

“Why can’t you find a place and settle down! What’s wrong with where you are? You are just like your Aunt Violet!”

I never knew whether or not they meant this as a compliment. Aunt Violet had worked on the Queen Elizabeth II and had traveled the world. I knew her when she had retired and was living in Flushing, Long Island. I spent ten days with her when I was thirteen traipsing all over New York City. Other than informing me she spoke with her deceased husband in the room I was going to be sleeping in –  Great. That’s a little creepy – I thought she was perfectly fine.  The woman was in her “golden years” and she walked me almost to death, fed me wheat banana bread with cream cheese (I was still in the pizza and French fry phase), and introduced me to friends of hers from Switzerland and Holland.

Sure. Maybe I am like my great Aunt. I know I had a lot of fun shopping at Macy’s and taking the cruise around Manhattan. I traveled there by myself on a Greyhound bus. Chatted with strangers. Saw the World opening before me. What’s not to love? Why would anyone stay in the same place when they could go somewhere new, different, exciting, sometimes weird, occasionally terrifying.

We live on a really cool planet. And, while I might absolutely without reservation with no good reason to leave and be madly in love with wherever I am, I am aware that I haven’t seen Deschutes River (Oregon), or Mount Rushmore (South Dakota), or …

I took the pod off the car.
I wonder what happens next.



Growing Small May 12, 2018

Growing Small

Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

May 14, 2018

How do I tell you that since participating in Petrified Forest Field Institute’s Fossil Dig east of Blue Mesa, I look out my front door differently. What could I tell you that would bring to you the same sense of adventure, the same appreciation, the same excitement that came along with the dig?
Should I tell you that, when I was a teenager, my younger brother –  who fancied himself my elder – told me to “act my age.” I didn’t know what he meant then; I still don’t know what that phrase means. I mean, come on. I was born in 1961, but on Saturday, May 12, 2018? I was – oh, maybe 10.

See, the last time I intentionally dug for fossils, I was in Mrs. Horst’s fifth grade class. We had a field trip to look for fossils of ferns and bivalves somewhere in the hills of Pennsylvania.

Last summer, I met a family while camping in Tonto National Forest.  The husband/father cracked open a stone for his son, and low and behold! A fossil appeared! How did he know?

How do you find fossils, anyway?

It takes dirt. Time. An awl. A couple of brushes. Knowledgeable scientists. Patience. An opportunity offered by Petrified Forest Field Institute (www.petrifiedforestfieldinstitute.org).  And bright, mid-day light to find fossils in the “bone layer” of the mound we went to work on in the colorful badlands of the Petrified Forest National Park. We started the day with a tour of the research facilities located behind the Painted Desert Visitor Center, on the Interstate-40 end of the park. There we learned about the phytosaur, whose partial skull was on display. Handsome thing, it is, with a toothy snout about as long as my forearm. Looks kind of like a crocodile with shark teeth. But it isn’t a croc. It is a descendent of the archosaur, and is a distant relative, but it is a phytosaur – who knew?

The paleontology team, comprised of Bill Parker, Chief of Resources; Adam Marsh, Lead Paleontologist; Ben Kligman, Paleo-Intern; and Chuck Beightol, Term Paleontologist, worked patiently with myself and four others as we unearthed any number of fascinating items buried in the rock. I found a vertebra of I-don’t-know-what, but it was still exciting. I mean, look. Here we are in 2018 and I unearthed a bone from a reptile which lived somewhere around 220 million years ago. MILLION. Not last year. Not the year before. Not my granny’s birth year (1900), but 220 million years ago.

Kids think I’m old at 57. I suddenly felt like a youngster, a whippersnapper, a 10-year-old. Someone my age, you might think, might know a thing or two, but suddenly, I was aware that there is oh, so very much more to know – and it is under our feet.

We spent most of the day kneeling or lying in the dirt, chipping, sweeping, and prying rock apart to see what we could see. Marsh kept an eye on what I was doing, and occasionally picked up an ancient fish scale that I had overlooked. (They are very small.) He supervised while I dug out coprolites (fossilized dung), some of which also contained scales.

Beightol observed from above the dig line, catching glimpses of remains we missed. Someone found a really tiny spinal column. Most of us found teeth. Parker identified an ulna. Kligman supervised handling of the “small details”.

It was a blustery day, and from time to time, a hat, a kneeling pad, or baggie would get away from us. This sort of distraction was actually beneficial, as it gave us a moment to look around. Some of us were waiting for Mad Max to come screaming over the horizon. For all I knew, we could have been transported to a different planet. But there’s no need for intergalactic travel to find something new and unusual. Simply get to know the world around you. Everywhere you go, there is something new and interesting to find and explore. Maybe it’s a bone from a reptile from the Triassic Period. Maybe it’s fossilized trees. Maybe it’s something as simple and remarkable as how the changing light creates new colors on the hills and canyons. No matter where you go, it’s a cool planet.

My world has gotten much bigger – and older – since Saturday. When I was little, I always wanted to be one of those people who made great discoveries. Well, for at least one day, I was that person.


Accepted for publication by Petrified Forest Field Institute and Navajo Times
On query elsewhere.

Photo by Lloyd E. JohnsonMe, Bill Parker, John and Julie McLean, Adam Marsh, Sandy and Lloyd Johnson, Ben Kligman


Slough May 6, 2018


Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

May 6, 2018


There is always a space between an assignment and the beginning of an essay or article where I go through the Slough of “I Can’t Do This!” It’s an awful place, full of small, biting remarks – memories, if you will, of nasty comments made by people I no longer associate with: “You can’t do this.” “You’re never going to be able to make a living from your writing.” “No one will buy your work.” “No one even likes your work.” “Your too wordy.” And other such discouraging platitudes.

Take this morning, for example.

No, wait, let’s start a few pages back.

Several years ago, I started an online Master of Arts English program with Southern New Hampshire University. I took courses while traveling – which I strongly suggest you not do – and passed/failed/passed/failed/passed regularly. I took this past year off to re-evaluate my purpose. I am tired of failing.

I am on this endeavor for several reasons.

Reason #1. While I have a degree in Spanish, and have taught Spanish successfully, I have always felt like a poser. I am a white woman of German heritage who grew up in an English- and Pennsylvania Dutch-speaking community. I can read Spanish (and German), write Spanish (and German), and speak Spanish (and German). But when I speak Spanish, I sound exactly like a white girl who knows textbook Spanish. In a country where Spanish is becoming a semi-official language, there are millions of native speakers who should be teaching the language, not me.

Reason #2. I taught Reading in a high school several years ago. I was required to teach from a scripted text (“While holding the green card in your right hand, walk to the left and say …”) which all of the students had placed into based on standardized tests scores. All of the students had placed into this level repeatedly. Some of them were there for the fifth time. I was dismayed. Obviously, they hadn’t had a decent teacher. Come to find out, for several years, they didn’t have any teacher at all! In many schools in Arizona, the teacher shortage means classrooms full of students sit the hour with one another and have no instruction due to lack of educated and certified teachers.

Vanity of vanities, I thought, I taught English at the community college level. I’ll get my degree and certification in English and go and teach the joys and wonders of dangling modifiers, parallelism, subject/verb agreement. I will be able to knowledgeably discuss literary techniques, and impart this glorious wisdom to my students.

I’ll also meet and get to read and write and chat with other geeks like me … OOoohhh, the joy …

Ah, hem, I was saying:

Reason #3. I write. And, while Arizona and other Parts West may be willing to hire a teacher in her late 50s, at some point, I may want to stay out of the classroom, and actually finish any number of stories, screen plays, essays, etc., which I have started. I think it would be nice to have my work published, my films produced, my poetry engraved somewhere. I figure, nobody will care if I’m a wrinkled old hag pounding away on a keyboard, as long as what I write has merit. Taking writing courses will improve my writing style, teach me the jargon of ‘the business’, and maybe I can meet some folks along the way who will offer more encouraging support.

So, here I am, Sunday morning, with an essay due by 11:59 p.m.  Eastern Standard Time. I have homework. An essay explaining the difference between reading like a reader, and reading like a writer. I can do this. I’ve even taught this. So, why, at 6 a.m. am, do I wake with fear and dread in my heart? Why, considering, all the times I started and stopped and started and was stopped and started again, ad infinitum, do I feel like a Whack-a-Mole who should Just Stay DOWN!?

I won’t, of course. Despite – or because of? – the agitation, I’ll do my homework. I’ll work to improve my writing style. I’ll finish the film script by the competition deadline. I’ll tutor and teach writing classes. I’ll continue to grow. I just wish I could do this without plowing through the morass of “I Can’t” when I know I can. Drives me nuts.


I took the dog for a walk, and somewhere between the pond and the juniper, began composing what I’ll write later today: “A comfortable chair, a rainy day, a blanket, a cup of tea, and a good book are sometimes all you need ….”