Wednesday, January 27, 2021


It was time to find a new doctor. The woman I had been seeing mysteriously stopped returning phone calls. She missed three or four phone appointments.

When I asked her assistant -- I will call her Donna -- what was going on, the woman asked me if I was accusing the doctor of lying.

"She's been trying to reach you," she barked. "She's left you messages."

Messages that somehow never managed to make it into  my voicemail. And calls that never made it to my list of recent calls.

After the doctor failed to call me still once more this past week, I placed still another call to Donna. 

I never heard a word back.

Meanwhile, my dear friend Nancy Dunlop had given me a referral to her doctor's practice. She raved about them. I was a bit uncertain about switching, but really, what choice did I have?

So on Monday, just before 1 p.m., which was my appointment with this new nurse practitioner, I got a text message from her assistant. "Would you like to Zoom?"

"I'd love to," I responded.

The new practitioner seemed a bit foreboding. Long grey hair. Black rimmed glasses. But her smile was lovely.

Her assistant -- a delightful woman named Brianna -- was conducting the medical history.

She asked me all the standard questions...a long long list of them. And then this question:

"What is the highest grade level you achieved in school?"

I told her I had a Ph.D. 

And honestly I'm not exactly sure how things unfolded after that. At some point, Angela (the new practitioner) asked me what my PhD was in.

"English, specifically teaching and writing. My first novel served as my dissertation."

Angela's face lit up. "So you write books?" She wanted to know the titles. I told her, and then I told her about this one, the one I'm now calling 

"Angels Keep Whispering In My Ears."

"It's a crazy book and sometimes I'm not sure it is a book at all," I said. She asked what it was about and I told her, "it's a healing book, a story about how I healed myself of depression by believing in Divine forces."

Angela practically exploded through the computer screen.

"That's incredible," she said. "That's the premise of my whole psychiatric practice.  I believe everyone is healthy when they are in touch with the Divine. You could be our spokesperson."

To say I was stunned is putting it very very mildly. And then came even more incredible information.

I told Angela that it was also a story about my Italian ancestors, including family from Calabria, the Orzo clan that originated with my great grandfather, Pasquale. 

"You see, he was illegitimate, which was very shameful in those days. It's actually a miracle that he survived because in those days, in southern Italy, many illegitimate babies were put to death!"

I told her that the book is written partly in Italian.

"That's incredible," she said again. "I'm also Italian. Fluent. My maiden name is Loccisano (loosely translated, "healthy eyes" -- her brother is an optometrist!) And my ancestors are also from Calabria, from a tiny mountain town called Ciaverello, a place I visited last April." My ancestors were from the tiny village of Paola, in Cosenza, Calabria.

Then she explained to me that in addition to her medical practice, she has developed a peer advocacy group she calls "Mentisano," which translates to Whole Mind. People are coached by peer advocacy specialists to develop a plan that reflects their life goals and dreams.

At this point, the medical history was all but forgotten. We turned briefly to a discussion of my medications. Before I hung up, I promised to send a couple of chapters from the novel.

It wasn't until later that it hit me: through some mysterious process, I now have a medical practitioner who subscribes to the most important principles of my spiritual practices.

How did this happen?

How is it the other doctor just disappeared out of my life, and this new one with whom I'm perfectly suited dropped right in? How is it that these "coincidences" keep happening?

Here is just one more miracle, one more miracle, tied up with this book. Here is one more episode that I can't possibly explain, except to say it's a gift bestowed by the Divine!

Thanks to my dear friend Sharon Flitterman-King, Ph.D., who painted the beautiful still life that appears here. And thanks to my friends Peg Woods and Jan Ramjerdi -- both wonderful writers -- who have been reading this book and encouraging me to go forward.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021


 January 10, 2021 

8:50 a.m. Last Wednesday's vicious and horrifying mob attack on the Capitol left me with great heartache. On Thursday I was drawn into my studio. I had no idea whatsoever what I would paint; all I knew is that I wanted to produce something to comfort my aching heart.

I used the palette knife to spread thick layers of paint on the canvas. I felt like I was frosting a huge cake. What emerged was a bright painting with the glowing yellows of egg yolks. My son wrote to me and said the painting looked "DELICIOUS." My writer friend Nancy Dunlop saw galloping horses in the image; she compared them to the images that haunt the walls of the ancient Lascaux caves in southwest France. 

After reading Nancy's piece, another friend of mine, Renee Pettit, wrote a free-wheeling journal entry that was inspiring.

Today I am staying in the safety of the buttery white and yellow colors. The world is so full of knives and blades and guns and hatred.

8:55 a.m. Guide my way forward with this book, Lord, please! I am asking for Divine inspiration. I am asking for Mom's help, too, as she has guided this book from the very beginning. Mom, are you as blissful now as Mary says you are? I'm sitting here smiling and letting your love fill my heart. I close my eyes and I can see and feel you.  

8:58 am I am chanting OM NAMAH SHIVAYAH when suddenly I look up and see what at first looks to be an owl sitting in the bare tree overhead.  I think of my dear friend Kellie, who communicates with owls. But no! I see it's the red-tailed hawk that has visited before. I feel it right in my heart.

Mary would call this another miracle, and I agree. I was just now asking for Divine guidance. 

I take a photo of the hawk and text it to Rich and in that moment the hawk lifts up from the branch, spreading its magnificent wings and rust-colored tail. The hawk flaps lazily down the meadow and disappears in the pine trees. 

9:06 a.m. I google, "What does it mean when a red-tailed hawk crosses your path?"

"...the hawk symbolizes the ability to use intuition and higher vision to complete tasks or make crucial decisions...hawks serve as animals that heighten our spiritual awareness and help us along our path."

Thank you Lord for giving me yet another miracle, another signpost to help me as I am writing this book. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021


Yesterday as Leah gazed out the front door across the brown lawn

She happened to see a horde of robins bobbing,

Their rust colored breasts were the brightest color

of the gray day.

But these robins didn’t bring her the loving joy of spring.

They were honestly kind of frightening.

Because it’s February for heaven’s sake and 

there hasn’t been any snow since December.

Where did the winter go?

And while we’re at it,

Where the hell did the birds go this year?


A few minutes later she put the dog on the leash and walked

down to the country store, for eggs. And the day’s mail.

And there behind the counter was the wife of the owner. Johana.

who used to make meatball grinders and turkey sandwiches daily. 

About a year ago, Johanna disappeared and no one knew why or was brave enough to ask.

Yesterday, she was back. She aged twenty years in the one since she disappeared.

 Shrunken. Grey. Her once vibrant red hair now the color of the robins’ breast.

Leah was so frightened she wasn’t sure what to say so she asked

“How is your dog?”

And Johanna said fine. And as soon as she could, she exited the store.

Terrified, she walked home. 


Now here it is the next morning.

Leah is gazing once again out the front door.

Here it izzzzzz 34 degrees.

Here it is. Still. Frozzzzzzen. 

Here she is. Still. Terrified.

No matter.

No matter that she is still in her powder blue robe.

Trembling, she steps outside without her emerald parka on.

The dog barks and follows her.

She scuffs her slippers through the crusty brown lawn

She wants to rip up the grass

And set fire to the trees.

Please God, melt this frozen heart of mine.

Help me tell the story of my healing.

The next thing she knows she is actually lying on the ground. She does a spread eagle. She feels the icy cold wetness.  She holds that position and stares into the grey clouds. In a moment, she is up she is back in the house and still trembling, she sits down at her computer. She pulls up a file at random. It’s called “Silver River.” It gives her chills to sit and read what she wrote exactly ten years ago.


To start, Leah is lying there, a fallen angel in a foot of fresh snow.  It is deep in the middle of the night.  She has wandered out to the darkest reaches of the backyard, out to the furthest row of white pines.  

Parked as she is in her white parka, in the white snow, she is almost invisible.  She is watching the sky. Waiting.  There are stars galore, the sky is splattered.  But she is waiting for something more. 

That email she got early this morning was clear: “Tonight will see the first full moon to coincide with the winter solstice in 6000 years.  The last time this happened, Moses went up to Mount Sinai for the Ten Commandment stones.  Don’t miss this once-in-ten-thousand-lifetimes event.  The moon will be so gigantic, so bright you won’t even need car headlights tonight.”

She is watching the horizon, just above the pines.  

Her attention is drawn by the soft glow of light gathering above the dark curtain of trees a few feet away.  The top edge of the tallest pine has a halo.

She goes up onto her elbows.  Steadies her gaze.  Suddenly the crisp edge of the moon is sliding up behind the tallest pine, the branches outlined.  Black fingers.  She falls back into the snow.  The flood of silvery moonlight is even more exquisite than she had imagined it would be.  She takes in one slow breath and holds it and suddenly sadness overtakes her and her eyes close. 

Leah’s breath comes blowing out in one long explosion.  She sits up.  Peels the gloves off.  Sets her hands flat in the snow, lets her fingers go numb, squeezes the snow into a freezing mess in each hand.  Warm tears pool and now the moon is almost fully visible and now, holy cow, it is a mighty white disc showering light onto the snow. 

“Leah?  Are you out here honey?”

And that’s where she stops. 

She is still trembling.

No matter, she can see her way forward.


Sunday, January 10, 2021


Last Wednesday's vicious mob attack on the Capitol left me with great heartache. On Thursday I was drawn into my studio. I had no idea whatsoever what I would paint; all I knew is that I wanted to produce something that would comfort my aching heart.

The square canvas sat on the floor on top of a heavy tarp. I set my basket of paint tubes next to the canvas and kneeled down (I do much of my painting on the floor.) Without thinking too much, I picked up a large tube of yellow. I squirted it onto the palette. I picked up a small tub of white paint and scooped a blob onto the palette next to the yellow. The next thing I knew I was using my palette knife to "butter" the canvas with thick strokes of paint. It felt so reassuring to feel the soft waves under the palette knife. At one point I felt like I was frosting a cake.


What emerged was a bright painting with the glowing yellows of egg yolks.


I photographed the painting and was disappointed that the photo didn't glow the way the canvas does. But I decided to post it on Instagram anyway.


Before I knew it, my good friend Nancy Dunlop, a wonderful writer, texted me to say that she had been swept up by the painting. She saw horses galloping across the canvas! Soon, she had written something mythic and remarkably special. I was delighted when I asked her if I could include it here in the blog and she said yes! 


"And the goddess gave birth to a giant golden egg, and the egg crackled  and fissured open, and the yolk and albumen spilleth’ and from that source of all that is good and fierce and beautiful, sprang horses, full grown, and they reared up on two legs, shook their massive manes and galloped in many herds, in all directions, their hooves stirring up the remainder of the yolk, and the Goddess said to the horses, Go and teach other animals to run and be beautiful, and when the tribes of humans saw these horses of the Goddess storming toward them, they knew the power they held, and the beauty.  They knew these horses were the messengers of the Divine, and they took up their tools and their paints and made artwork on the inner walls of caves, and the caves became eggs housing these paintings, incubating them, and then cracking open to release even more horses in herds encompassing the globe.  And that is how the first Art came to be." 

See what I mean? It's so amazing when one work of art sparks another! But it didn't end there. I was speaking to another friend, Renee Pettit, who is also a terrific writer, about what Nancy had written. I shared the passage with Renee, and sometime later on Friday, she texted me to say that the painting, and Nancy's words, had combined to inspire a journal entry.

My oh my was I happy. Here was my painting offering comfort to my friends, and also moving them to create beautiful cascades of words.

Here is Renee's journal entry:

“The Yellow Wallpaper, Reimagined:

An Exploration of Feeling Inspired by Claud’s Painting”


"There, in the yellow cottage, peeling paint reveals the freshness and aliveness of layers of life underneath; reveals the harmony of old lives and new; of how we are never very far from who we were. Even if we no longer are that exact version of ourselves, there is a steadiness, a line connecting us to each preceding day of our lives, back to the very beginning, back to our first memory. We are paint-by-number, in a sense. 


There is that yellow cottage, bleeding out old, tired life and breathing in and brimming with new. That cottage that can feel like a crowded house or a lonely universe, a sanctuary or a cozy den. “There is freedom within, there is freedom without...” 


Oh, those pure whites, that youthfulness that yellows with age and rich wisdom. Purity becomes linen becomes topaz and caramel. We move through this life one day and one page at a time, filling one room, emptying another, shifting, shaping, ever-becoming. 


An egg: the symbol of purity and perfection, cracked open to let that inner life run free, seeping under the doorways of that sometimes empty, sometimes crowded house. It is ski jumps and rivers, crème caramel and baked Alaska. It is that butterscotch sundae with Dad; those lemon bars with Mom, that Mick makes these days; stained linens; a wedding dress. It is freedom and self-confinement, yearning for a past that never was and praying for a future we can’t quite see.


That yellow cottage is my promise to myself to honor every day of this life and give thanks for the privilege of seasoned perspective, grey hairs, chest pains that wound up to be nothing. That yellow cottage makes my eyes well with tears, praying for many more days, many more darkening shades and splinters of light. I am thankful for the sunlight, the moonlight, the spring and summer, the fall and impending winter. I bow down in hope that I will be granted many more days, many more pages, many more shades and colors and rooms. Thank you, stars and creatures, friends and loves. Thank you for all of it. "

And thank you Renee, and you Nancy, for your splendid words.

Nancy Dunlop, who lives in upstate New York, received her Ph.D. from the University at Albany, SUNY, where she taught for 20 years. She is curator of Wren, an international e-forum for women in the arts. A finalist in the AWP Intro Journal Awards, she has been published in many print and digital journals. 

Renee Pettit, who received her M.A. in English from the University at Albany, SUNY, is an editor for an academic research organization. She is also a fiction writer. She is currently searching for a literary agent for her first novel and working on short stories. She lives with her husband in upstate New York.



Wednesday, January 06, 2021


TO THOSE OF YOU who have been reading my book this past year, you know that PAINTINGS HAVE HELPED in the healing, over and over again. AND NOW


here, HERE IF YOU WILL BARE WITH ME, I OFFER YOU a very famous painting by JMW Turner, an English Romantic painter and printmaker. Turner's painting, "Rockets and Blue Lights," dates back to 1840, but it looks like it could be a work of Impressionism. The painting hangs in the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. where my husband Rich and I visited last Saturday.

Today, I offer up "ROCKETS AND BLUE LIGHTS" in celebration of the stunning and amazing news of the Dem's win in Georgia last night. 

Peg Woods, my dearest writing buddy (and a phenomenal writer herself) who has shepherded this book along ever since DAY ONE keeps saying to me "Claud, you know you're writing a novel when absolutely everything that happens feels like it belongs in the book."

And now I see exactly what she means.  The Georgia election results have me back to 

believing in miracles,

and back to 

BELIEVING IN THIS BOOK which I have been writing since February 6, 2020. 

For the last month, ever since December 6, 2020, when I posted:

"Lady Bugs Visit in December While Mom and the ANGELS WHISPER IN MY EARS!"

I have been lost lost lost, not writing but worse than not writing

NOT BELIEVING in the book at all. And not believing in the miracles either.

The book devotes several chapters to these miracles, coincidences, or as my husband calls them, "COINKYDINKIES," or Godwinks.


for years, right hear 

here in this blog.

But today I am back.

I say officially, 

I do indeed believe in the miracles that are regularly bestowed on me --

I actually keep a file on them in my computer, dating back to 1996, and it is now 45 pages long.

I am deeply deeply grateful for all of these miracles.

As I have been so deeply grateful ever since last

February when I started writing the book that I first called

"PEARLY EVERLASTING," which morphed into "HEAL LEAH LEAH HEAL" -- because it's a book all about healing --

But now, I am calling the book:


It was once again Peg Woods who, after reading the most recent chapter, suggested  the title.

Which is kind of cool because I came up with the title for her fabulous first novel,



what the hell does this Democratic election victory have to do with this crazy book 

well I'll tell you

Reverand Raphael Gamaliel Warnock, a Black Baptist Minister, stunned the world by winning the US Senate seat in the special election in Georgia.

My husband Rich -- who has made it his life's work to study and champion progressive politics -- says "it is truly amazing that he won, he comes from the long tradition of Black Baptist ministers like Dr. King and Jessie Jackson, who were leaders in the Civil Rights movements."

And what surprised and delighted me when I learned it this morning, is Warnock's name: 





All year this book has been healing me and all month even as I wallowed in the UTTER wasteland, despairing over not writing, DENYING THE MIRACLES,

ALL THIS TIME I have been praying to Angels, because MARY my spiritual therapist encouraged me to do it, 


The other day she said "I see a stone altar in a dark forest and I see a bonfire and the book is blazing in the bonfire but it's not being destroyed and the smoke is rising up to a circle of your ancestors so that they too can read it," as they should since so many of my ancestors' stories appear in this book.

Yesterday,  JANUARY 5, 2021, I was writing in my new, newest of nine journals this year,

and i was in great GREAT despair over Trump and his wicked shenanigans of recent days. Yesterday I had gotten myself so worked up about Trump, I was convinced that he was going to try to execute some kind of a military coup

I was so frightened that when I spoke to Mary in the morning and told her, she said, "I don't want you listening to the news and I want you to tell people not to talk to you ABOUT TRUMP OR POLITICS at all!"

At 9:34 a.m. I wrote in my journal:

"Please let the Democrats win today! I am asking" FOR DIVINE INTERVENTION.

And at 9:35 a.m. Rich stepped into my studio where I was meditating, kneeling on my meditation bench, and praying. I told him how scared I was and he said, "Don't Worry!"

But I did worry, all day long, I worried and fretted and I walked 4 miles trying to stay calm (I have walked 40 miles since Christmas Eve.) And when CNN came on last night, I hid in the bedroom with a book and told RICH TO PLEASE TURN THE SOUND WAY DOWN, I didn't want to hear a word about the fucking Republicans and their disgusting behavior.

This morning, when i awoke to THE MIRACLE OF WARNOCK'S VICTORY my heart soared, it's A MIRACLE IN MY OWN HEART BUT IT IS TRULY and INCREDIBLY a miracle for


Like Biden and Harris, Reverend Warnock's victory comes as a big breath of fresh fresh air.

Oh, and his MIDDLE NAME IS

GAMALIEL, he is named for A FAMOUS JEWISH EDUCATOR: "the son of Simeon ben Hillel and grandson of the great Jewish teacher Hillel the Elder. Gamaliel is thought to have died in 52 A.D." (Wikipedia)

So Christians and Jews alike are free to celebrate this great victory.

This victory has given me the courage 



NEWEST PAINTING, completed in November, 2020.