Photo by Kary Schumpert

(This essay is partly inspired by the July issue of Tribeza Magazine and the theme and emphasis on Makers, and Kristin Armstrong’s column “Our Unique Common Denominator” which is included in this same issue.)

Make. One of the lovely things about being human is our ability to make things. We make tools, love, and messes. It’s our creativity and desire to change and learn and build and dream that makes up our very essence.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what makes a life. We all live and breathe and eat and sleep, but what is it that we make? What do we create for others? What do we create for ourselves? What choices do we make that leave us breathless in anticipation? What actions do we take that leave us sleepless in remorse? What are the moments that slip through our fingers? What parts of our lives feel just right? What is it that we make that we don’t even realize?

We make moments.

We make decisions.

We make love.

We make mistakes.

We make conversation.

We make memories.

We make messes.

We make appointments.

We make a home.

We make friends.

We make family.

What is it that you make? How do we make it together? In a world that is increasingly reliant on technology, sometimes the line of making something is blurred. We often think that to make something requires tools and talents. I argue that we can all make something, and even do it well, if we just give ourselves the chance.

Making something, even a small, but beautiful life, only requires that you show up, ask, and be brave enough to make mistakes. To live fully means you are fully making your life. You are making the best of your talents and timing. You are supporting your loved ones and asking for that support. You are loving and showing your love. You are trying and failing beautifully. You are the baby making first steps. You are the octogenarian making your millionth joke. You are laughing and crying. You are in the moment. You are falling and flying. You are staring down the moment. You are trying new things. You are comfortable and loving a supportive environment. You are scared and excited. You are holding on and letting go.

What are the things you love to do? What are the things you would like to try? Who could you like to call and talk to for a few minutes or a few hours? What risk would you like to take? Who would you tell that you love them? What new recipe would you like to make? What craft would you like to try? What would you like to build? Who would you like to visit? Who has a career you would like to learn more about? What could you make right now that does not require any new equipment or money spent? What picture have you been meaning to take with the phone that you never put down? What trail or road have you not taken? What do you have that you can share?

If you feel at a loss, make a list. Begin. You are doing great! Clasp your hands. Take heart. Speak up. Show up. Make mistakes. Love. Make your life.


A quote by Anne Lamott

Photo by Kary Schumpert

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you
never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in
warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly
and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out
on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big
juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring
off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart.
Don’t let this happen.”
–Anne Lamott

A quote by Gary Paul Nabhan

Photo by Kary Schumpert

“A seed is really something spiritual as it is something material. It contains a life spark that allows the regenerative process to happen. We need seeds because they are the physical manifestation of that concept that we call hope.”–Gary Paul Nabhan


Photo by Kary Schumpert

In our family, there is an oft-told story about me when I was two or three years old. I was on a car trip with my grandparents and little sister before the holidays. My older sister and parents would join us in a few days. In the car I looked out the window and I kept asking questions. Finally, my grandmother tired of finding answers and she said, “I don’t know.” In toddler brashness, I responded, “Old people don’t know anything. Katy knows everything.” Katy is my big sister, seven years older. Little did I know that she made up stuff when she got tired of my constant questioning. My grandmother loved that story and never failed to remind me of it, laughing to show me that she always found humor, and not offense, at my childlike frankness and curiosity.

I never really outgrew the incessant questioning. Questioning feels as much a part of my identity as brown hair and my love of New Mexico. Lately, in grief, I haven’t asked as many questions. It feels odd and alien. In the last week or so, though, the questions have returned. It takes bravery for me to ask some of these questions. I feel their presence a comfort, and perhaps, I feel the slow return to myself.

This is what I have asked recently:

I asked my boss about a new job posting.

I asked a dear friend for forgiveness.

I asked a co-worker for help.

I asked a new friend to meet me for coffee.

I asked a new boyfriend for grace and the ending of our relationship, because I wasn’t ready to date.

I asked an editor to consider some of my ideas for new articles.

I asked my mother about one of her painful memories, because I wanted to know about deep forgiveness and redemption.

I prayed and asked for peace.

I asked a friend, with whom I had lost touch, who sent me a short message via LinkedIn, for her phone number so that we could talk.

I asked for an extension of a deadline.

I asked my running group’s coach for an informational interview so I could find out more about being a personal trainer.

I went to my favorite bookstore and asked them to order a book that I wanted, but was embarrassed to ask about because of its “self-help” category.

I asked an out-of-town friend to cancel and delay, yet again, a much-talked-about lunch outing.

I asked a dear friend, who is a new mother, how she was doing following her first two days back at work after maternity leave.

I asked for clarification about a boundary in a relationship.

I asked the universe about the meaning of international news and political news.

I felt blocked and asked where I should begin in my spiritual work.

I asked the building manager for repairs to be made in my apartment.

I asked myself if I was on the right path.

I asked myself to find self-love.

Some questions are more difficult to ask than others. Sometimes, it’s the answer we don’t really want to hear.  Other times, the question and answer will go through revisions. Once in a while, a question takes our breath away. I realize that a question can be a starting point or the end. Knowledge and answers often come only after a time. As Rainer Maria Rilke said, “Live the questions now.”














Photo by Kary Schumpert

Discomfort. I have been thinking about this quite a bit. Sometimes discomfort is a synonym for pain or numbness.

Pain brings to mind headaches, medical conditions, and emotional disconnect. Numbness isn’t the absence of pain, but more a state of no feeling. Discomfort can be pain, but sometimes it’s the anticipation of something that could be uncomfortable, like the minutes right before a dentist appointment. Sometimes, though, it is much, much more.

As I struggle to write these words, my stomach is full of gnawing nervousness, discomfort. There is discomfort in sharing something so personal and discomfort in trying to articulate something so vague, and yet so specific.

This spring there was grief and loss. My dad passed away in early March and more recently, I have lost a close friend, but not to death. Now, as spring turns to summer, I find that grief and loss are staring me down. There is discomfort in needing to deal with this loss. For a while, I just ignored it, or tried to put away the grief into a box deep into my being. As a result, I have not really slept in three months and the insomnia has only grown. I know that I need to face this. At the same time, I worry that focusing on my loss and discomfort becomes self-absorption

Facing and naming my discomfort is the first step. What is it about grief and loss that I don’t want to face? What is lurking in the shadows under the discomfort? What I am I afraid to confront? What are the steps in the grieving process? What am I afraid of losing? What is my attachment to this friend? Is there redemption in the loss of my dad? Is there recovery of a friendship? What are the tools that I need to face discomfort, grief, loss? What are the deeper steps to healing? What does it look like on the other side of discomfort? Is there more than just this discomfort? When does this become wallowing instead of healing?

Despite this discomfort, there are good things, too. I joined a running group and I look forward to workouts with women who are striding and training. A book club that I have belonged to since January has created some new friendships, and I love this group of smart, curious, thoughtful women. I am looking forward to a few weeks off for the summer and time for some writing projects that are beginning to take shape. I feel lucky that I love the job I found here; getting to teach about the environment in my home state is a dream come true and I can’t wait to get started again in August. I found an independent, local bookstore that feels more like an extension of my home. I forge new friendships with two women with whom there is something in common: one the love of coffee and vintage shopping, one the love of running and walking long distances and the care of our local ecosystems. I am renewing some long distance ties with old friends in rambling and engaging phone calls scattered over the last few weeks. I am falling deeper in love with Albuquerque, where I moved a few months ago. Still, though, there is discomfort.

Photo by Kary Schumpert

I begin to face the discomfort head on. I search. I pray. I reach for friends, family, support. I look for tools. I cry. I name my fear. I name my discomfort. I look for the void.

During a run, especially when I am getting in shape or training for a longer distance, as is the case this summer, I face discomfort. My heaving lungs, my pounding legs, and then there is relief in a good workout and the end of discomfort. There is a void.

All that is left in the void is breath and peace.