Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Winter weary
I wait in line
boot slush seeping
into the industrial carpet.
Pearl earrings, cardigan
quick and efficient
Martha is my teller.
Never chatty
today she speaks.
"My cat died last night."
I stutter over a so-sorry
as she slides my receipt
gestures for the next in line.

this slice of sorrow stays with me
throughout the day.
I picture empty spaces
altered routines
gone grazing the tongue.
What have I to offer
other than this ...
of a fellow soldier.

Bridget Harwell

Monday, November 16, 2015

Catch Up

Hello friends.  It has been a very long time since I've written for this blog.  After Liz and I completed our book, Lies, I spent writing time on poetry.  Today, I realized I was missing the blog so I checked in and saw that people still stop by. That made me happy. Thank you.

I hope to pen more essays and also to share some of the poems I've been writing which I think fit in with the purpose of the blog...sharing thoughts about living.  This past week, I had a couple of doctors' appointments which I flat out hate and who doesn't.  Still, there is always something to take away even from the most mundane experiences. As always, comments are very welcomed.

Off to Some Unnatural Procedure

dressed in identical gowns
hands folded in our laps
we are wheeled in our chairs
down a long hall
towards each other
about to pass
I spy tufts of hair
blue eyes in a lined face
a rogue smile
I laugh
bumper cars
we breeze by
 in body
 in our eyes

Bridget Harwell

Saturday, January 10, 2015


The holidays have passed and they were happy for me.  But not for a few friends who suffered loss because of deaths or break-ups.  I was in the position of longing to have words that could make even the smallest difference.  I remember after the death of my husband, how awkward it was for some people who would repeat, "I don't know what to say," and as a result avoided me until I was more pulled together.  They were right, there were no magic words.  But, what I found helpful, were those friends who were able to listen.   It gave me some relief to tell my story.  In particular, I remember taking a walk with my nephew who said very little but listened with love and acceptance, not concerned about how to play his part.

Two years later, I was in a different place, in some ways more difficult.  I had gone from  deep emotion to staleness.  Staleness is difficult, if not impossible, to communicate.  Looking back, I am grateful to a couple of friends who stayed with me through that dry, dull period of my life.

I posted a blog on 10-10-11 titled "There Are No Words," and included in it the poem The Woodspurge by Dante Gabriel Rossetti which I think captures the traumatic moments of intense and numbing grief.  You can look it up in this blog's archive, if you like.

The following poem is a far distance from Rossetti's gorgeous poem, but for me, it bespeaks that period, long after loss, that I call staleness and still consider one of the most difficult things to deal with in life.  I had just visited my husband's mother who died two years after he died.  She was in a nursing home in an odd part of Columbus.The poem is about my state of mind, reflected in the landscape.

New Landscape

I went out into the dry summer air.
All around was flat land, no houses.
Low buildings, engraved with names that told nothing.

I passed pyramids of gravel,
mounds of tires,
wire bales stacked like the hay
that I had seen on a far off day.
By the side of the road, white pipes lay
waiting to be buried.
Over all, a water tower cast its shadow.

Noiseless as Sunday,
I looked up and saw a sparrow
perched and pecking at the grid.
Oh, I was glad to see a living thing.
I walked on quickly
my heart banging
like a stone in a barrel.

Bridget Harwell

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Leaves scraped,
eddied at our feet
and flung themselves
into the wind.
Our few words
went with them.
It was a cold day.
You hugged your arms
and lifted two fingers in farewell.
Never, I thought, would I forget
that last look.
But what I remember,
every Novenber,
are the bobbing heads
of dried flowers
that lined the path.

Bridget Harwell

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Grammar Lesson

Before I learned
to live in the Now,
I roamed at will
through tangled fields
of long ago
and far away
and sometime soon.

a funny thing happened:
the past grew large
the future small
and roaming
isn't safe at all.
My, my,
hot stoves and pot holes.
Now is everything.

Bridget Harwell

Thursday, September 18, 2014


We three sheltering
in an Irish rain,
my dear, a goat and I.
A perfect day
I would live again
if such a choice were mine.

Bridget Harwell

Sunday, September 14, 2014


The strand at Portsalon is wide and curved.
Stony mountains, too bleak for goat or sheep, rise steeply from the sea.
Across the bay,
white houses trimmed in black
are stacked like dominoes on the rounded hills.
One of them is his.

He steps back from the lapping water.
He has always been afraid of things beneath the sea.
Fishy eyes and foreign faces.
Thin as a cricket he could be caught up
and crunched in a bite.
He shivers in his woolens.
In place of sun, a day moon floats in the sky.

The sand beneath his feet is bumpy
hieroglyphics cut by rivulets ...
or the stylus of some ancient god.
He doubts he'll take this walk again
though he has known it all his life.
Too many odd thoughts fill his head
and the road back is steep.

Bridget Harwell

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Good Old Albert Ellis

August is my least favorite month of the year.  Too hot, too dry and dusty, summer clothes have become a bore, mosquito bites are a misery and the whole neighborhood smells of barbeque.

This irritable, August frame of mind is kind of fun. Any day that doesn't go well, I can blame on August. Irrational, of course, but a bit of a buss man's holiday since, as a therapist, I believe that blaming is at the root of many emotional problems.  Albert Ellis (1913-2007) father of Rational Emotive Therapy, went so far as to say all problems share a single root: blaming and demanding.

Certainly, there are times when it's important to know, in the name of justice and to avoid repeating mistakes, who holds the responsibility. You might call this rational blaming.  But a ton of blaming has noting to do with rational thinking, au contraire.  Often, blaming serves to hide one's own bad behavior, to try to control the behavior of others, to get revenge and to feel superior. And then there is the cognitive error that if the wrong doer is labeled, the problem goes away. Knowing who spilt the milk will not put the milk back in the bottle ... but yelling about it is a nice release, at least temporarily.

A learned behavior, blaming can be unlearned by practicing accepting responsibility for a mistake or bad behavior even if only a part of the problem can be attributed to you.  A funny thing happens when you step up to the plate and say this part is my fault. (I am not talking about awful, false equivalency) It takes a bit of courage but it actually feels freeing.  Since you own the poor behavior, you no longer have to hide or defend.  As a bonus, you may be admired for being forthright and honest.  Sometimes, other culprits will follow your lead and also fess up.  And, importantly, owning failure allows you to learn from a mistake and move on.  Ellis had this to say: "The best years of your life are ones in which you do not blame them on your mother, the ecology or the president.  You realize that you control your own destiny."

Ellis believed that there are three "musts" (demands) that hold us back (and make us blamers) I must do well.  You must treat me well.  The world must be easy.

Having said all this, I still dislike August and I thank Mother Nature (whose fault it is not) that autumn is on its way.

Fault Lines

Soiled, smelt, dripped
Splashed, spilt, pinched,
Bawled, hit, bit.
Who spilt the milk?

Punked, rocked, flunked,
Dyed, smoked, lied,
Drink, drank, drunk.
Who do you think you are?

Swore, burnt, fried,
Fought, gnashed, crashed,
Yelled, failed, bailed.
Whose fault is it?

Broke, doped, bent,
Drooled, pooped, stooped,
Dried, cried, died.
Who made a mess?

Bridget Harwell