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A Week in San Diego

A Week in San Diego

Military ships in harbor across from my hotel room.

I arrived home last Saturday evening totally exhausted from my trip to San Diego. I didn’t realized just how tired I was until Sunday when I woke up with fuzzy thinking and sore muscles everywhere. I don’t think it was from physical activities as much as from over-stimulation.

The room I had at the Sheraton Harbor Hotel looked out onto the water where I could watch people walking briskly along the edge of the bay. In the water were jet-skis, sail boats, Hornblower cruise vessels, Navy ships, and tug boats. The hotel is directly across from the Navy Air Station with helicopters coming and going all day long. Standing on my balcony, I was suddenly aware of how much I miss living near a body of water as I did growing up, and later in Virginia.

The first day I was there, I took my first Uber ride to the local San Diego Shell Club annual Shell Show in a building at Balboa Park. This show had exhibits prepared by the members, and a room full of dealers who had shells for sale.

A court yard in Balboa Park
Arched walkway in Balboa Park







After viewing the exhibits, I found a bench outdoors and ate the lunch I brought with me. I enjoyed the architecture of the walkways with the columns, being able to see the matching shape from the arches on the other side of the walk.

On Monday there was a field trip to the San Diego zoo also located in Balboa Park in an area with hills and ravines. I saw many of the large animals on a zoo bus ride designed to give us an overall tour of the place. The leader suggested we get ice cream after the ride before we separated to explore on our own. I enjoyed a Hagen Das dark chocolate covered, chocolate ice cream bar at 11:00 in the morning.

Young Panda munching on bamboo
Five giraffes keeping cool

The zoo has many smaller animals from around the world, including beautiful birds which often had to be located hidden in the trees in their enclosures.

One of the ladies I was walking with could rattle off the Latin names of all the plants. Of course I had to see the five giraffes, two of them only a year or two old.

Tuesday we visited the Scripps Aquarium in La Jolla with its spectacular displays of underwater creatures including colorful mollusks that don’t have hard shells called nudibranches, fish, and other sea creatures. Then we had time to get lunch and visit shops.

Tropical fish at Scripps Aquarium
Lacey creature at the aquarium







The Conchologists of America convention (COA) – the reason I was in San Diego – got going on Wednesday, with three days of short presentations about shells, interspersed with silent auctions, six of them, where attendees could bid on packages of shells and related items. I don’t generally buy shells because my collection is predominately beach collected, but I enjoy the silent auctions.

The Welcome Party Wednesday night began with a parade and photos of those who had decorated a hat for the occasion. I wore my head-gear which I detailed last week in this blog.

Also on Wednesday, my roommate arrived from Arizona. I met her last year in Key West and we talked about sharing a room at the next COA. It was wonderful to make a new friend and have someone to talk to. She had driven from Arizona, which added a whole new dimension to the trip. The vibe in San Diego is full of energy, people walking up and down the streets, eating lunch, and shopping in the older section of town, like Stockton would like to have. (We have the old buildings but not the tourists.)

Notable presentations included two by a man who has been diving and collecting in the waters of Alaska and the Aleutians for the last forty years. He has found that shells that occur all along the coast of Alaska stop suddenly at a point in the Bering Sea where the water temperature becomes two degrees colder.

Several talks showed results from DNA analysis that is starting to shed light on how land snails in the Bahamas migrated from island to island and resulted in new species.

We even saw video of a devise used to find and bring to the surface mollusks that live in the deep sea and are rarely seen.

Thursday night featured an oral auction where we watched attendees bid on rare and expensive shells. Before I left town Saturday afternoon, I cruised through the bourse, where sea shell dealers from all over the world displayed their finest treasures. I found the table which had an assortment of shells for $5 each, and selected a handful of shells I don’t have or have never seen before.

Next year COA will be at Captive Island, Florida in June. Hopefully, I will find time to reorganize my collection in the next nine months.

The Hat Parade at COA

The Hat Parade at COA

Back View of Hat with Shells

I have been in San Diego for three days, and have been busy being a tourist. I arrived on Saturday so I could attend the San Diego Shell Club annual show which has exhibits designed by collectors and vendors selling shells. This was planned to coordinate with the national convention so that attendees can enjoy both events.

As a rule, I don’t purchase shells but I enjoy looking at them, and I’m also interested in books about shells to add to my library. To truly take in the exhibits one must take time to read the labels and understand what the exhibitor is explaining in his display.

Most Conchologists of America (COA) conventions arrange field trips the two days before the meetings begin, so visitors from around the country can see some of the city. Monday morning I will be on the convention field trip touring the San Diego Zoo. Tuesday, the trip I have chosen visits the Scripps Aquarium and downtown La Jolla.

Today, Wednesday, is the actual start of the convention, which consists of a series of presentations by collectors and scientists, who talk about a particular family of shells they have studied, other aspects of collecting, or research being done.

In between sessions there is a silent auction of shells from donated collections or shell related items. We walk around tables of shells on display and bid on those we would like to add to our collection. These timed auctions benefit COA, the shells have data on when and where collected, and most of the items go for a reasonable amount. I can add shells to my collection from places I will never be able to visit.

Front View of Hat on my head, red band holds my ponytail.

This evening is the Welcome Party where this year there will be a Fancy Hat Parade. Registrants are being encouraged to wear a decorated hat. As I thought about what to do for this challenge, I decided I’d construct head gear with beach combing finds that didn’t make it into my collection.

I selected miscellaneous yarns in blues and greens to represent water and seaweed, and started to crochet, adding on shells as I went. All of the shells I used were broken when I found them so I could easily attach them with one stitch.

The biggest issue I had to resolve was how to keep it on my head.

I started by making an open circle that I can pull my ponytail through and hold it with a stick to

My ponytail coming up through opening to secure hat

secure this display.

The grey, tan, or pink stuff floating above the colored yarn is a very sheer ribbon to simulate moving water.

It is hard to evaluate how it will look by trying it on and using a hand mirror to see all sides. But, I feel confident there won’t be another hat like it


Back of Hat from side


There are 18 shells on the hat, but they are hard to see in the photos.

Planet Gazing

Planet Gazing

When I moved into my house twenty-one years ago, I made cafe-style curtains for the five windows in my bedroom, which is in the back of the house. I wanted to be able to wake up and see the sky as soon as I opened my eyes. At night, the moon shines into the room, and when it is clear I see some stars even though I’m only two blocks from several busy intersections.

Some years ago, I realized that the brightest “stars” were planets. I’ve read a few books by armature astronomers, seen a few presentations, and I try to remember which planets are in which window. Last Saturday night, I actually saw the planets.

On the third Saturday of the month, weather permitting, the local astronomers set up their telescopes and invite the public to come see our universe. I had been seeing a notice in the newspaper for at least the last two years, but never got around to going. I’d put it on my calendar on Tuesday and come Saturday we had clouds all day. Or, I’d get busy in the yard and decide that finishing what I was doing was more important.

This event, by members of the Stockton Astronomical Society, (, is held at Oak Grove Regional Park on Eight Mile Road in San Joaquin County, along side of I-5 going north from Stockton, about three miles from my home.

I got there before dark so I could look over the park, because I drive by frequently, but had never actually been inside it. The park is loaded with ducks and other birds. The day had been hot, but the Delta breeze was making it a perfect night.

Venus is the brightest planet and the first to appear in the west just after sunset above the trees. For a brief time, Mercury could be seen as a bright pin- point between two trees near the horizon.

The moon had been visible since late afternoon, high in the sky looking south. I saw its lacy-looking surface in the first telescope I looked into. There were eight or nine telescopes of all sizes set up by individual owners.

As the sky darkened, Jupiter became visible just to the right of the moon. I was getting acquainted with some of the astronomers and their family members. The owner of the scope gets the planet in view so each visitor can take a look. When I looked at Jupiter through the scope I was surprised to see three round balls next to it all in a row, similar to this photo, but they were graduated in size and looked like little creatures following mama.  Amazing!

Jupiter with moons in a row on right

There was a lot of standing around and waiting for darkness so more things would be visible. I was watching the people. And making a mental list of things to bring next month. Like a chair, a flash light, and munchies.

One of the astronomers told us that he has a set up at home to take photos of stars and other space objects, like a star that blew up in 1054, which somehow he saves on his phone. Fascinating. Way beyond anything I can understand.

To the east, Saturn appeared near the horizon. We had to wait until it moved up in the sky a little and somewhat clear of the “dust” from earth. By now it was dark, and many more people had come to look through the scopes.

Saturn tilted

Saturn was tilted so its rings looked like a doughnut standing on its side, bright yellow with a touch of orange. What I saw in the center was the grey ball of the planet. This image is the closest I could find on the net. We were told Saturn will be better next month.

By this time, my body was telling me it had stood around enough for one night. Next time I come out, I’ll know what to expect, and I’ll stay longer and see the stars.


Color – Influence or Reflection?

Color – Influence or Reflection?

Lilies in Marilyn’s garden

My garden was a riot of color in April and May, but it is settling into a more sustainable level of bloom for the hot months ahead. The lilies above show up while rose bushes and other plants are reorganizing to bloom again. Having brilliant color in my life is so important to me.

In the years I was weaving, I accumulated a good size stash of spooled and coned yarns in an enormous color range, and I still have a lot of it. Last week, as I made a repair on a woven item that I had picked up at an estate sale, I looked though my cabinets trying to find similar colors.

Just looking at the colored yarns is a delight, an emotional tug to play with them again. I get lost in the color so easily. Color is a huge influence on what I’m attracted to, and this is probably true for most people. Like who pays attention to ads with small black type on a white background?

This seems to be innate in creation—birds and insects are attracted by the colors of plants that will provide them the food they need. I’m personally most attracted to greens, particularly those that lean toward blue, like teal and aqua. I’m so attracted to this color that I can easily spot burr clover anywhere in my yard. If I see an item of clothing this color in a store, I must stop and look at it.

The emphasis on grey for decorating makes no sense to me. There is no energy in this boring color. So, when I come across articles in magazines or the newspaper promoting this trend I ignore them. Two years ago my dentist started to redecorate her office a little at a time. Now the walls, floor, and counters are all shades of grey, with black window blinds. It doesn’t look bad, but it is somehow disturbing. Going to the dentist is depressing enough.

From my limited perspective, it seems that the people who decide on the colors for the manufacture of clothing, vehicles, and home or business decor are in dense urban environments with lots of concrete. So we have car dealers displaying black, white, and grey cars and trucks, with a few bright reds.

For the last number of years the color of clothing, even for summer, tends to be dark, muted, and mottled. Not to mention that the styles do little to enhance the appearance of our less than perfect bodies.

On the other hand, I see photos in my local newspaper of ordinary citizens promoting and attending community events that are full of color and energy.

The question in my mind is: are the designers trying to influence how we feel about our culture through the colors they choose, or are they reflecting the mood of the culture they are part of?


A Yard Full of Delights

A Yard Full of Delights


Anna’s Hummingbird

Twenty-one years ago today, I celebrated my mother’s 82nd birthday with her and my father, at the house I had just gotten the keys to the day before. We ate cake sitting on folding chairs in the empty living room.

The huge yard was landscaped in the front, had an ivy covered western fence, and three large trees, two Modesto Ash, and one huge sycamore. The back yard had an orange tree and a peach tree along the back fence, while the ground was covered with Bermuda grass. I had visions of future grandchildren playing soccer or badminton out there.

Ten years later my three granddaughters lived in Camas, Washington, and I was getting rid of the Bermuda grass which was brown in the winter and sunburned in the summer. I bought a redwood tree for $5.99 at the grocery store and planted a small vegetable garden.

I didn’t make a plan for the garden, I just bought plants that looked interesting and stuck them here and there. In the winter ten years ago, I dug a narrow meandering stream and hauled two truck loads of river rock across town in my Chevy S-10 pickup, placing them in the stream bed one by one. The photo at the top of my website is from the following spring.

The house also came with a simple bird feeder hanging from a beam which is directly in front of my kitchen window. These days I hear bird song all day long even with the windows closed.

I’ve pretty much stopped buying plants. In the last three or four years, new plants just show up in the garden—some welcome, some not. I have not just planted a garden, I provide habitat for all manner of bugs, bees, praying mantis, dragonflies, at least seven species of butterflies, and unhappily, many squirrels.

The birds coming to the feeder are doves, juncos, chickadees, warblers, sparrows, and Scrub Jays, who scold me loudly if the feeder is empty. The mockingbirds think my strawberry patch belongs to them and take one bite out of the berry, while a squirrel calmly sits on the top of the fence, delicately holding a red strawberry in its paws, taking one small bite at time.

Other birds frequent my garden on their way north in the spring and going south in the fall. These are the robins who hang out for about two weeks, small yellow-green finches, and starlings who walk across my side yard like soldiers on parade looking for snails.

The Cedar Waxwings come through in February or March and clean off the pyracantha berries in two days. I often hear and spot the woodpecker drilling the big trees. I have a pair of Phoebes who nest under my eves. I love to watch the Swainson’s hawks soar and glide far over head, teaching their babies to fly.

The Anna’s hummingbird is mostly grey with a red triangle on its throat. They stay in the valley year round and I see them flying about every day. They work over a flower, ascend straight up, pause, then go to another plant. They make a clicking sound, so even if I don’t see them I know they are there.

I don’t know how many hummingbirds are in my yard, but there must be several. Some days I see one catching a drink from the spray in my fountain. In the winter when only the sage is blooming, it seems as if, when a hummer sees me it will fly over near me, and hover until I say hello.

Late one afternoon last week, I went out to pick the first of the blackberries. As I stepped into the bed, a hummingbird landed on the top rail of the tomato cage I use to support the berry branches. I stopped moving and the bird looked at me, first just facing me straight on, but then turned and cocked its head first with one eye and then the other, back and forth, checking me out. It opened its beak and stuck out its long tongue. Eye to eye we were for the longest time until the bird rose up and headed for a bright red flower several feet away.

I am so blessed.

From Weeding My Books to Creating with Weeds

From Weeding My Books to Creating with Weeds

As a treat after spending the first three months of 2018 weeding my books and old magazines, I was in Visalia, California for the weekend at the 7th Biennial Conference — Baskets and Gourds — Containers of Our Culture. This was my third time attending this conference.

The weekend included a gallery reception on Friday evening of work created by the teachers .

Members of BABM at the Art gallery

I particularly like this conference, held at the Visalia Elks Lodge, because it is a large open room and we can walk around and see what other classes are doing.  The location draws craft people from Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Sacramento area. A dozen or more of my friends from the Bay Area Basket Makers (BABM) were there.

Participants had an all day class on Saturday and a different class on Sunday.

Classes in a large open room

My Saturday class was about how to use copper sheeting to make jewelry or embellishments for baskets. For me, this was a opportunity to become familiar with the materials, tools, and using a torch to anneal the metal, which softens it so it is easier to work with, and to bring up different colors. We learned numerous ways to connect metal pieces together, to use them as pendants or earrings. This was a good introduction, but I will need to play with this material some more to develop the skills to make what I envision.

My Saturday class was actually outdoors because we were using torches to heat metal and hammering. People cleaning and carving gourds also work outside.

Saturday evening featured a catered dinner and guest speaker, JoAnn Kelly Catsos from Western Massachusetts, who makes traditional type baskets using a mold.

My Sunday class was making a small basket using both twinning and weaving of the elements. The bottom and vertical spokes are Western Red Cedar bark gathered on the Pacific Northwest Coast from trees that were being cut for logging. Our instructor, Polly Adams Sutton, had prepared the cedar spokes for our use. We twinned with a three sided rush, Northwest sweet grass, Scheonoplectus pungens, from tidal flats in Washington. At the same time, we wove Beargrass between the spokes, so that the twining was securing the bear grass.

Chasing Beargrass

This class was more fun than Saturday’s and I could work quickly because I often make twinned baskets. When I go to this sort of class my intention is to learn something new and make a sample. Making a more perfect product takes repeated practice and careful attention to detail, such as trimming the Beargrass to be a consistent width.

I think this combination technique would be interesting with different materials like yarn and cording.

I drove back to Stockton late Sunday afternoon, arriving just before dark. Monday, of course, involved putting away equipment and sorting out handouts and freebies. By 4 p.m. I was fighting to stay awake, and a short nap lasted two hours. All that concentrated creative effort, abundant stimulation from people, and new ideas used more energy than I expected.


If Your ‘Word for the Year’ is “WEED”

If Your ‘Word for the Year’ is “WEED”

Blooming now in my yard.

Weeding seems to have become my full-time occupation. Why is it that once you start, you suddenly notice more and more places that need your attention?

My first big clean up project this year concerned honeysuckle growing up a fence that separates

Honeysuckle I spent two weeks pruning.

the garden area of the backyard from the apartment behind my garage, plus a storage unit and wood shed. I have never really pruned this plant except when it sent long stringers on the ground.

Last fall, a well meaning friend trimmed it for me when he was looking for something to do to be helpful. He did such a good job that all the dead wood at the top of the fence was hanging down exposed below the green canopy. In February, the weather was nice and I realized that if I was going to clean out that dead stuff I needed to do it then, before new growth began. This took a full two weeks of afternoons, and I’m glad it did it, but nothing else, like art making, got done.

As soon as that was finished, I noticed the strawberry bed was full of grass and weeds while the plants were starting to put out new leaves.

Meanwhile, indoors I have been weeding through old magazines that I saved to use for collage images. When you want to do a collage quickly, going through magazines looking for images is a sure recipe for frustration. Besides, I need the shelf space for all the ephemera – nuts, bolts, rusty metal, gears, washers, and keys that I bring home from estate sales.

I already have a picture file that I started for my high school art class. So these images and words I’m cutting out of the magazines will be added to those files. Our recycling is picked up every other week, and this year I’ve put out at least a twenty-four inch stack of magazines for each pickup. I still have a way to go, but the end is in sight.

Back outdoors, two weeks ago my yard man weed whacked so severely a small area between the driveway and my lot line that I could see the dirt. This patch was full of burr clover, which has seeds with teeth that get stuck in your socks or cling to your pants. I’ve been wanted to get this cleaned out for several years, but it just seemed too overwhelming.

Of course, the roots of these nasty plants are still in the ground, only now they are easy to see. And with all the rain it is a perfect time to dig this stuff out. I know, I could spray them, but then the grass between them will die, and I would still have to get the dead stuff out to plant good stuff.

On the days it rains or is too wet to work outside, I’m weeding inside. I have this addiction to books. Most of my friends have this problem also. There comes a time when we have to say goodbye to books we have read and won’t read again, or have lost interest in that subject. Fortunately, I live half a mile away from a “Friends of the Library” book store and my books will find new owners. I have ten bookcases of various sizes and I’ve weeded six of them.

Tulips Vinnie helped me plant.

The best part of weeding is being in my yard to enjoy the birds and all the flowering plants like the tulips my grandson, Vinnie, helped me plant some years back

Valentines Remembered

Valentines Remembered

The first Valentine’s Day I remember was probably in 1963. It was certainly the most spectacular. I was living in Parma, Ohio with my parents and brother. I had just gotten home from work when the door bell rang, and Mother asked me to answer it because she was cooking dinner.

I was surprised to see a man holding a large floral arrangement which he said was for Marilyn Thayer. I took the heavy, Florist Telegraph Delivery (FDT)  bouquet in a small, white pedestal vase from the man and carried it to the kitchen where there was no room to set it down. My mother made a space for it in the dining room. It consisted of white carnations and feathery greens in a triangle shape, with a large red bow.

It came from Ray Erickson who was studying engineering in Atlanta at Georgia Tech. We had become acquainted two years before during football season in our senior year of high school. Over the weekend, I painted a detailed watercolor of the bouquet, so Ray could see what he had sent me.

Now, fast forward about forty-five years. My boyfriend comes by my house on Valentine’s and presents me with a gift bag. Whatever is nestled inside the pink tissue is heavy. I’m thinking chocolate. I reach in and pull out a pink something.

Pink Ceramic Valentine

What was it?  It was clearly a valentine with two red hearts pierced by an arrow.

It was ceramic. It looked like a purse with a red ribbon handle on each side. Maybe it was a vase, although to me it looked like a ceramic gift bag. I was in shock!  What would I do with it?  It was PINK!

I don’t do pink. I don’t wear pink. I don’t have pink things in my house. Pink flowers in the garden are the exception.

For a number of months the pink “object de art” sat on top of a file cabinet, and I tried to ignore it because didn’t fit anywhere in my home. It was a concrete reminder of the differences between me and my guy. He likes classy things, I’m home-spun. He likes hot and spicy, I’m butter and salt. He’s out-going, I’m shy. He likes to shake things up, I like to know what to expect.

But we both like to talk to each other, we love books and read them, we worked together as a team at the VA, and we have an interest in art—he collects it, I make it.

In 2009, when I moved my studio into my house from the apartment behind my garage, I needed something to hold a handful of markers. I had run out of old coffee cups for holding pens and pencils. That pink thing was sitting on a shelf and it was just the right size.

Last year, my love said, “I never know what to get you—your taste is so different from mine.”

Today, the pink valentine is holding some big brushes in my newly reorganized studio. It is the only valentine gift of my seventy some years that I still see every day. It reminds me of all the exciting, crazy, and caring moments I have had with this man.



I was reading one of those goal-setting articles last week which made the suggestion of selecting a word for the year. I have done this before some years and I usually forget all about it by February when I’m in the thick of whatever project has captured my imagination.

Without even thinking, I wrote in the space provided: “Weed.”

Yesterday, while listening to the radio, the discussion was about the newly, legal in California, Cannabis. I laughed when I suddenly realized that my sons and my boyfriend will be dumbfounded if they see the title of this blog.

But I’m not thinking about the noun, I’m going for the verb. Webster says weed is frequently used with the word out, as in “weed out unqualified applicants.”

After three years of writing a book, undesirable plants have taken over whole sections of my yard. This winter I’ll be digging out ajuga as well as burr clover, privet, palm, the occasional dandelion, and Bermuda grass. I plan to sit in the yard for an hour or two a day if the weather is nice and remove the offenders.

Inside the house is where I really intend to weed. When I worked at the public library in Dublin, California, we had way more books than shelf space, and those of us who shelved the books were constantly imploring the librarians to weed the collection.

My book shelves are packed with books from college and grad school, from studying homeopathy, on how to write and publish, from attending estate sales where wonderful books can be had for a dollar or less, and from being addicted to acquiring books from sellers who offer discounted remainders and send me monthly catalogs of their new arrivals. I must clear some shelf space if I’m going to keep acquiring books.

Magazines I have saved for years that have words and pictures that might be just what I need in a collage, need to be quickly looked at and cut out before the recycling bin takes them. How to file those images and words so I can find them later is still being determined.

Hopefully, after all the time and energy I use weeding, I’ll still have some left for making art.

And if I can get the books and magazines under control, I won’t have to weed my art supplies for a few more years.



Imagining Heaven

Imagining Heaven

Doris Ida Thayer
May 30,1915 – December 29, 2010

The last time I sat and talked with my mother was December 27, 2010. She had been living in a nursing home for the last nine months after she broke her hip at my house. She was finally opening the Christmas gifts she had refused to open when I visited her on December 24, before I drove to Roseville to be with my son, Chris and his family.

She had been grumpy on my last two visits, but today she was agreeable. I showed her a card that had come in the mail from the son of one of her high school friends. I read his note to her that explained that his mother had passed away during the summer. My mother took the card and read it to me, saying “Oh, that’s too bad.” This was the last of her life-long friends to die.

As I was leaving, I noticed Mother had a bit of a cough, sounding low in her chest. Two days later, I was awakened at 7:20 a.m. by the nursing home staff telling me that my mother was being sent to the ER because her blood pressure was low, she didn’t want to get up, and she didn’t seem right to them.

By the time I got to the hospital, they had determined she had had a heart attack early that morning, and probably had pneumonia. They had her on an IV trying to stabilize her blood pressure, which was continuing to drop.

I guess she knew I was there but she didn’t say my name. I was told she was not likely to recover. I requested they provide comfort care, but not to prolong her suffering. She was becoming agitated because she wasn’t getting enough oxygen so they gave her some morphine, and after the IV was stopped she passed in about twenty minutes.

I have spent a lot of time trying to understand our relationship while writing my memoir the last few years.

Last week, I watched a YouTube of a song where a family member has died, it’s Christmas, they are grieving, but taking comfort in knowing their loved one is with the Son of God, the Prince of Peace.

I don’t have a picture in my mind of how heaven will look, and I don’t think about it much, although I realize that some day I will go there, too.

As the song went on, I thought about how I had not grieved a lot at her death because she had lived a long life and the last few years she was often confused and probably lonely. On the rare occasions when I think about seeing her again in heaven, I expect she will still be on my case for my short-comings.

But now, listening to that song, it occurs to me that if she is with the Prince of Peace she would be sanctified, and will see me as He sees me. Perhaps this is how healing begins. It’s time.