Zen Diagrams

Winter comes early to the high mountains of Colorado—it’s already snowing in the 14ers behind our house—so when Mike said, “Let’s go to the lake today,” I donned my water shoes, threw my paddle board in the truck, and off we went. We were both exhausted from a week of racing events (Mike earned the coveted 1,100-mile LT100 mountain bike race jacket), but the day was “seasonably” warm for an August day in most places. We could easily have taken a nap, but didn’t want to miss the warmest day of the year so far.

Did I mention we were exhausted? The lake must have known. Never has it been so serene, so ripple-free-reflective, and we were all alone on it.

We paddled side-by-side for a while, Mike in his kayak, me on my board. I paddled softly, not wanting to disturb the only other creature in sight—a preening Double-crested Cormorant, who stopped to follow our languid glide across his waterfront. The lake was crystal clear to the bottom. I thought I might find lost treasures.

When the glistening bird returned to his task, we advanced on cloud formations so crisp atop the water that the vision disoriented me. “We’re chasing water clouds,” I told Mike. “Another book title.” I really need to start keeping track of all my book title ideas. He smiled and paddled silently.

As Mike’s kayak moved beyond me, I watched the cloud reflections waver until they looked like something from a Dali painting for a moment before the wake from his boat subsided and they were perfect again, more beautiful even than the actual clouds above. I approached their reflections as slowly as I was able. I wanted to stand on a cloud, but they remained always just in front of me.

Easing my paddle from the water behind me, I made a gentle arc before dipping it back in for the next stroke. I watched as the droplets from my paddle made strings of concentric circles that expanded in circumference until they overlapped one another, becoming a chain of wavy Venn diagrams before disappearing into the mirror. I did this over and over again, never tiring of the magical patterns. Water Slinkies trailed my board and nudged me into a trance. Venn diagrams became Zen diagrams.

I sat on my board and floated on the clouds until Mike returned.

“Want me to pull you back?” he offered after we had floated together for a while.

“Sure. Let’s go back and take that nap.” I clipped the front of my board to his kayak and lay on my belly, my ear to the board, and listened to the easy, rhythmic “splash, splash, splash, splash” of his paddle as we returned to where the watchful bird waited. I skimmed my fingertips along the surface of the lake as he pulled me, reveling in the juxtaposition of its satin-soft coolness with the warmth of the sun on my cheek and arms and calves. The clouds had drifted away.

And so had I.Waterwight

p.s., I took no photos that day, but was inspired by crazy, dreamy, cloudy, rhythmic ideas I’ll use in Waterwight: Book II.

You’re a Peach!

That crate of peaches
slurped, sliced, peeled, baked in cobbler
Empty box, full tum!

So many slurpy peaches!

              SO many slurpy peaches!

What do you do after buying a crate of peaches from a man setting up on a street corner?

  1. Wonder what you’re going to do with SO many peaches when you get home.
  2. Pull off the cover and savor the sweet aroma of SO many peaches.
  3. Consume 1 or 2 or 3 right away and wonder why you still have SO many peaches.
  4. Be a little afraid of the repercussions of eating 1 or 2 or 3 peaches right away.
  5. Give them to your friends and your mail deliverer and wonder why you still have SO many peaches.
  6. Ask your son’s girlfriend if she’d like to make peach cobbler (because you don’t bake) and marvel at the fact that you still have SO many peaches left.
  7. Eat the entire peach cobbler (well, share a corner with someone you love) and look at what’s left of SO many peaches.
  8. Write a haiku about SO many slurpy peaches.
  9. Decide it’s time to do something with SO many peaches still remaining in the crate. Peel, slice, freeze . . .
  10. Smile at the thought that when you’re tum-tum is ready again, there will be SO many peaches waiting for you in the freezer!
What was left of the peach cobbler a little while ago. Sorry, honey, it's gone now.

What was left of the peach cobbler (thank you, Lydia!) a little while ago. Sorry, honey, it’s gone now.

Peaches. It’s what’s for dinner.

big 'ol bite of peach cobbler.

            Big ‘ol bite of peach cobbler.

Peaches, peaches, more peaches for the freezer!

Peaches, peaches, more peaches for the freezer!

Pennies from Heaven

Well, probably not.

Regardless of the origin, when my buddy John and I decided to return from our morning walk along a different route from the one we normally follow, we discovered a treasure.

John actually discovered it, stopping short and backtracking a few steps while my focus remained internal. Ideas for the 3-Day Novel contest I’ve entered were flowed freely this morning, plot ideas bursting forth with each new corner we turned.

“Ooo! Pennies for my thoughts!” I squatted to collect the scattered copper bits–too many to count–and John added a bunch to my handful. “Let’s leave some as a surprise for some kids later on!”

A fistful of pennies, one for every thought!

A fistful of pennies, one for every thought!

With no pockets in today’s garb, I held the hefty coins in my sweaty palm until I made it home. I wondered who might find the rest, and if they’d even bother to pick them up. Pennies, 38 pennies. What do you do with 38 pennies? What does anyone do with pennies anymore besides dump them on the ground?

I’ll toss them in our change container and maybe someday take the lot to one of those coin machines for paper cash. Better yet, I’ll save the 10% fee by spending an afternoon rolling the coins myself while reminiscing about my waitress days, driven by the anticipation of discovering the total amount I made in tips during my shift.

Today’s windfall seemed like a sign from heaven that I’m on the right track with the novel I’ll write in 72 hours this Labor Day weekend. Glad my buddy was paying attention to our path while my head was in the clouds.

Dying of Embarrassment!

I love words. I love learning new words. I love trying to determine the meaning of a new word based on the context in which I might hear or read it, after which I will open a dictionary (or ask Siri) for the definition. Please don’t hate me for it; it’s my job. I’m not shy about telling anyone who asks what I “do” that I’m an author, so my passion for words is entirely defensible. I initially wrote “excusable,” but found “defensible” more appropriate for expressing my proclivity to wax poetic when given the opportunity.

Just today I posted the following plea on Facebook:

Everyone please repeat after me: “I feel BAD about that.”

You don’t feel badly (unless you identify silk as barbed wire in a blind touch test). How many of you feel goodly about things? You don’t. Stop saying you feel badly.

So, you can only imagine the horror and embarrassment I felt when I committed a most heinous faux pas—on a couple of levels—at an RV Campground this past weekend. Here’s what happened:

In bold print along the mirrors in the bathroom are warning signs about what you “Absolutely” cannot do with your hair. I suppose the signs are necessary, what with potentially clogged sinks and power issues and such. So when I was in the stall and heard the sound of a hairdryer, I tried to think of a non-threatening way to bring my concern to the blatant rule-breaker.

At this point in my story, please remember my comment about reading words “in context.”

I went to the sink next to Ms. Rule-Breaker and smiled at her, then stared at the sign right in front of her, then looked back at her.

“I feel like I’m on Candid Camera right now,” I told her, giggling a non-threatening giggle, “like someone’s watching to see who’ll report the person, or tell them not to do what they’re doing.” I smiled again and nodded toward the signs.

Ms. Rule-Breaker looked confused and mumbled something like, “Yeah, okay,” and kept drying her hair. A woman of about 45, she looked like she could have been a school teacher or a librarian. I expected more from her, but I wasn’t about to make a bigger deal than I’d already made of the situation, so I left to help Mike prep the trailer for our departure.

“Emptying the shitter” is the last step before locking up (Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation fans will appreciate that visual), and I took the opportunity to grouse to Mike.

“They have the same signs in the men’s room too,” he told me, though he thought it was weird. “Maybe they have problems with circuit breakers.”

“Well, I guess the lady I just saw in the bathroom believes the rules don’t apply to her.”

No sooner had I uttered the words than the very same rule-breaker walked around our trailer, hairdryer in hand, and glared at me.

“And just so you know,” she said, “the signs say ‘No Hair DYING’.” She turned in a huff and walked away.

I wanted to run after her and say, “Oh! Really? I’m so sorry! I’m an author . . . I’ll write something funny about this . . .,” but Mike suggested that she might be an author too, and the words she’d use to describe me might not be so funny.

Yes, I was a sanctimonious ass, but come on! “ABSOLUTELY NO HAIR DYING” just doesn’t make sense in an RV Campground bathroom, does it? And in the men’s room too? Well at least now I know (should I ever decide I need to touch up my roots while camping), and I also know I need to read signs more closely . . . and speak more softly in public places!

2-Week Contest!

2-week contest!

Upload a photo of any completed haiku from Haikus Can Amuse! to my Laurel McHargue or Leadville Laurel Facebook page, or ?@LeadvilleLaurel ?Instagram for a chance to win an autographed copy of “Miss?”

One entry per person, please.

writing, fiction, poetry, haiku

I’m on a roll! Waterwight, “Miss?” (updated and re-released) and Haikus Can Amuse! books all published this year!

Winner(s) announced 7 pm July 31st. Spread the word!

?#?haiku? ?#?freebook? ?#?inspiration? ?#?poetry?


#1 new release!


Thanks to you, my new book Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters earned a #1 new release in Asian Poetry on launch day, June 18th! What a wonderful 33rd wedding anniversary present that was! Check it out: Haikus Can Amuse!

gift book Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters

Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters is my fun new gift book!

I’ve decided to offer a free download of the Kindle version of Haikus indefinitely for anyone who purchases the paperback copy, so order your gift books soon if you haven’t already!

And thank you again for your wonderful support. This new book is designed to help you develop a fun, stress-free writing habit. Finish the poems and write your reflections whenever and wherever you want. There are silly prompts and somber prompts. See where they take you!

The introduction teaches you the basics about haiku, and after the 366 pages of prompts (first line poem “starters” and general topic ideas every 10 pages), there are poems and reflections by 16 renowned contributors.

Order one for yourself and a few as gifts for the journal writers and poets in your life, and for the English and math teachers you know! These would make great warm-up exercises at the beginning of class! Here’s the link: Haikus Can Amuse!

Haikus Can Amuse!

I’ve neglected my blog lately as I prepare to launch my fun new book:

Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters

It’ll be available on Saturday, June 18th, to celebrate Mike’s and my 33rd anniversary, so won’t you please consider purchasing one as a gift (to yourself and to us!)?

I’ll post the link soon, but even if you don’t use the book to complete the 366 poems, you could keep it on your table to make you smile (because it’s beautiful)! I love the way the designer “amused” me by having the butterfly leaves in clumps of 5/7/5.

Cover design for my new gift book: Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters

Cover design for my new gift book: Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters


“Hi, cute dog!”

The smallish uncollared pooch stopped barking and looked up at his master after determining I was no threat.

“Don’t need to be nice to everyone. No law sayin’ you have to be nice all the time. Laws and lawyers. Lawyers are backstabbers, every one. Two of my brothers are lawyers. I know.”

The dog looked from his master to me then, his head cocked in an expression that said, “He may be crazy, but he’s mine.”

I decided not to engage the old man, focusing instead on offloading my paddle board. I was excited about my first 7-mile adventure down the Colorado River from Gold Bar Camp to just past the Intrepid Potash Plant. The river was moving swiftly.

Mike handed me the can of pepper spray from the truck, but was reluctant to leave. I helped him offload his kayak near the boat ramp where my paddle board waited for me to pump it up.

“A boat. Why would I have a boat? Too big. Who’d watch my truck while I’m gone? You won’t. You’re just a dog. I’d like to take a nap, but who’s gonna watch my back while I sleep? Not you. You’re just a small dog. Wild animals come and rip out my throat. Nothing you could do.”

“Oh, boy,” Mike whispered.

“I’ll be fine. Go,” I told him. The old man and his dog disappeared for a bit.

While Mike drove down to the Plant to preposition the truck before biking back the 7 miles, I kept my eye on the disgruntled character, who continued to rant against the people who were watching and the lawyers and the people who had boats and the rules about everything including being nice. By the time Mike returned, the pair was gone and I was eager to hit the water.

It was my first time on a paddle board in moving water, and I launched with every expectation that I’d immediately handle myself like a pro. Within moments I was swept away from Mike, who was struggling with pulling his kayak from the sucking mud on the bank. I decided to spin my board around and try my success at paddling back upstream.

To be honest, I was a little freaked out at the idea of losing sight of him.

So of course I fell in.

It wasn’t a little slip off the side of the board, or a drop to my butt on the board like I’d done my first time on Lake Travis. No, it was a magnificent limbs-to-the-four-corners backwards off the side total dunk. And Mike never saw it.

More shocking than the frigid mountain water was the reality that I had fallen in. I ottered my way back onto the board, a challenging feat with the bulky life vest, and was back on my feet by the time Mike caught up with me. He wondered why I was dripping wet.

The rest of the downriver trip was a blast, and I managed to stay atop the board despite some close calls each time I tried a new stance. I’ve seen photos of tanned, fit, bikini-clad young gals doing yoga on their boards. I’m neither tanned not particularly fit and I can’t imagine ever wearing a bikini again, but I managed an awesome downward dog. Seeing the canyon walls passing by upside-down was pretty cool.

My new character for Book II of Waterwight was gone by the time we returned to retrieve Mike’s bike, but Mike made a suggestion about the character I’ll definitely use. We saw him again in his truck on the side of the road when we returned to the river the next day, and I was just a little disappointed not to hear his latest monologue. My paddle-board-on-the-river legs were far more confident in their ability to keep me on the right side of the board. So confident, in fact, that I thought I’d be able to stay upright when the waves from a passing riverboat reached me.

I couldn’t.


Traveling Corona Girls

Our last trip to Moab wasn’t nearly as much fun as this one’s been, probably because I was hobbling around on crutches last year. It’s ever-so-much easier to hike on two feet.

After learning how to play Backgammon yesterday from a YouTube video called “Backgammon for Complete Beginners” (I kept waiting for him to say “Morons”), Mike and I opted for a hike rather than a canoe and paddleboat adventure down the river because with the gale force winds and resultant waves, I would’ve been blown all the way to the Gulf before you could say “lizard!” Lizards fairly litter Moab. And bunnies.

“Oh! A dog! He’s beautiful!”

We were on our way to Corona Arch with Ranger-the-Beautiful when five lovely young gals carrying empty cans of Corona swarmed us.

“We had to drink Corona at the arch,” they explained unnecessarily. They were on a road trip from the west coast to their homes in the Midwest, and after loving on our beautiful dog for a while, asked us for hiking advice in Colorado.

“What are your names?” I asked.






We told them about Leadville and how they should hike around the Fish Hatchery and maybe even stay at the Leadville Hostel and Inn. I told them about my novel, and Maggie said she loved to read. If I’d had a copy with me, I would’ve given it to her. I told Salina I might have to use her name in my next novel.

“Take a selfie!” I suggested, “That way you can prove you’ve met the author!”

And so a selfie was taken, and the traveling Corona Girls went on their happy-to-have-seen-a-dog way.

It’s been a challenge letting go of the control I had with my own phone, but after 3 days now sans iPhone, I’m feeling a burden lifted. I don’t have to take a picture of everything . . .

The vibrant pinks and yellows of cactus blossoms against the verdant green.

The railroad tracks’ perfect curve between towering walls of chiseled red rock.

The endless acres of slickrock canyons looking like an alien planet.

The mysterious caves high up on the ancient walls.

The river tearing toward the ocean.

The beautiful dog.

The lizards.

The bunnies.

Safe travels, Corona Girls.