full circle in the hundred acre wood


“At a certain point, if you still have your marbles and are not faced with serious financial challenges, you have a chance to put your house in order. It’s a cliché, but it’s underestimated as an analgesic on all levels. Putting your house in order, if you can do it, is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable.” (Leonard Cohen, from a profile in October 17, 2016 issue of The New Yorker by editor David Remnick, “Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker.”) 


Aerial photo and all images in this post September 2016 by James Avera, of Avera Design, Mobile, Alabama for The Harmon Murphy Group at Keller Williams Gulf Coast Realty

And so, Buck and I have begun. It may take months or it may take years, but we have made a start to putting our house in order for the next season of our lives. Twenty years younger and we wouldn’t consider this radical move. In more than 35 years of adventures together, conceptualizing and bringing to reality our Sanctuary at Longleaf Preserve has been the most amazing and fantastic of all — except of course for that September day in the final quarter of the previous century when we first laid eyes on each other at a professional luncheon in Tampa.

I hope some youngish romantics with dogs and horses and kids or the dream of a vineyard and gardens or some other big, fun dream takes the leap on this astonishing place in the world; a place where owls hoot, wildlife visits, hawks swoop, bright stars can be seen, and wildflowers bloom. Where a bubbling stream sings. Where a person can hear themselves think. And where the very walls are imbued with laughter and love.

Notes about process: Buck and I mulled over the timing, whether it was better to start this Fall or to wait until the Spring of 2017. Were we willing to take the chance that we might be involved in a closing near Christmas? Finally, we made our decision and began our search to find a realtor who we felt would do a great job and be a good fit for us and the property. We interviewed six different realtors and/or realtor teams. I really didn’t know what to expect from the experience and was surprised in a good way. Every one of the folks we met with was impressive. The decision-making process was a lot tougher than either of us thought it would be. When we narrowed it down to the top two agencies, it was almost painful. Each brought many of the same gifts to the table: deep knowledge of the market, impressive track record of success, impeccable reputation, and passion. What finally added a deciding weight to the roughly even scales was this: one candidate was an individual and the other was a team, plus the team demonstrated an unusual nimbleness with technology and social media as well as the highest level of energy and enthusiasm for the  project.

Once we decided to put ourselves into the capable hands of Diane Harmon and Preston Murphy of The Harmon Murphy Group, LLC with Keller Williams Gulf Coast Realty, things started to roll. They have proven to be both big picture visionaries and detail-oriented perpetual motion machines. It’s fun to watch them in action.

Buck told me when we first met to keep my seat-belt buckled, because it was going to be a wild ride. At nearly 79, to me he is still the most interesting, exciting, sexiest, and fun man on the planet. And while I’m not eager to rush the future along, it’s going to be exciting to see where we land for the next chapter of our big mushy love story.




Cypress Vine, also known as Hummingbird Vine or Star Glory, seen draped over a wild shrub at Longleaf Preserve near Pensacola, Florida on October 12, 2016.

When your palate is jaded because the taste of the world is a mot du jour stuck in your craw whose essence is the gray of ashes, take to the woods if you can. I found comfort there yesterday in padding the soft pine straw trails, nearly walled-in by the oxygen-giving mature forest. And the corroding rust working on my soul was knocked off by a dazzling natural wonder I had never seen before; it was a shimmering ruby jewel lifted to the sun on a fringed necklace. I ran to it, fully engaged, entranced.


The innocence of Good Man Buck and Good Dog Lou setting off on a afternoon’s adventure replaced the disturbing and distressing fun-house media lens with a clear-eyed focus on what had been right in front of me all along. Who could hold onto the mulligrubs in their presence?


The little bird kept a watchful eye as our trio left the house to walk the circuit of fire line roads which would take us from the house to a horseshoe-shaped trail all around a good portion of the perimeter of the property.

Temp in the high 70’s with low humidity and the cloudless sky a crystalline blue. Feel like taking a walk? I promise to be quiet and let you savor, meditate, maybe even heal a little, like I did.














Buck wanted to take my picture standing beside this huge old pine. The ground was so soft under the pine needles I never could get a good footing. I told him later I was afraid there was some critter’s den under my feet and I might fall through at any moment.








Lou was ready to swirl around in the cool spring water at the stream bed by the time we had made the circuit.


And somewhere along the trail I had shucked that backpack full of black thoughts I’ve been carrying around during this election season. Whichever way the presidential election goes, I expect to be spending a lot more time walking the woods. How about you?



Butterfly on stone. Butterfly on stone. Evanescence. Beauty. Fragility. The seemingly solid qualities of stone. A butterfly’s life is short; always the lesson of metamorphosis. Does a butterfly have any awareness of where it has been or where it is going? A stone wall’s changes may be slower, but every day chips flake off like dead skin, bugs make tiny tunnels, and the wall grows more brittle. It does its job holding up the roof, but it never gets to fly.

October 1 is a classic marker for seasonal change. Yesterday was the first day of early morning temps in the low 60’s. Yesterday the video that will market our home was completed. Buck and I have had a busy several weeks interviewing real estate professionals, preparing our home and ourselves for a major shift in our tectonic plates.

We lay in the dark last night holding hands and talking about what we’ll be when we grow up.

Butterfly on stone. Butterfly on stone.


Labrador retrievers are prized for their good hearts and sense of fun as much as their remarkable athleticism. They have a long adolescence. At two, Lou is still in the borderlands between puppy and adult. She is developing an impressive presence, with a regal head and deep chest. You can see that as she surveys her kingdom in the early morning sun. Dog-loving writers will especially enjoy part 1 (In Dogged Pursuit) and part 2 (Learning to Sit) of Richard Gilbert’s (author of Shepherd: a Memoir) ruminations as he writes an essay about his late, beloved Labrador, Tess.



Here, she shows her sweet and goofy side while I (try to) write and drink coffee out on the patio.


Anyone who’s ever had a Lab knows they are incorrigible beggars. She wants my walnuts and golden raisins. And as you can clearly see, the poor thing is hungry.

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