Stone by stone, reply by reply


Sometime in 2013 (the exact date escapes me because, like so many other firsts, I didn’t realize it would be a significant first), I met Ruth.

Well, when I say “met,” I mean something more like “became aware of via a friend via a friend in the online world.” We started to chat online, visiting and commenting each other’s blogs, getting to know each other as much as you can get to know someone who lives on the other side of the ocean.

Which is to say very well, and hardly at all.

Field pinks

What I knew at first is that she’s a terrific artist. What I came to learn later is that she’s also a terrific writer. And a sweet, caring, funny, smart, and thoughtful friend.

It’s also a plus that she loves cheese. And the outdoors. And animals. And Scotland.

Field golds

At some point (another unrecorded date), we started talking about doing a project together. What sort of project we didn’t know, but it seemed like it would be fun to collaborate.

More recently (and now we have a date: July 2014!), inspired by other long-distance, online collaborations (see, for example 3191 Miles Apart and Let Us Go Then You and I), we decided to launch a project that we’ve called And then she replied.

It’s a conversation. An open-ended, meandering conversation where she’ll post something and then I’ll respond somehow, and then she’ll reply to that, and so on.

Ruth started with a mountain. We’ll reply in turn, as it suits (usually within two weeks of the previous post).

Field whites

As I said, Ruth has a way with pen and ink, and paintbrushes, and words; and she experiments with all sort of other art forms, from weaving to ceramics.

As for me, my natural instinct is to reply in words, but I’ve been known to dabble in the dark arts of origami, photography, and sourdough.

Like any real conversation, we have no idea where this will lead or how long it will last, but won’t it be fun to see?

If you’d like to follow the conversation, visit us over at And then she replied. To start at the beginning of the conversation, scroll down to the bottom to see Ruth’s mountain, and then scroll up to see the replies building upon and circling each other. You can join in the conversation, too, by commenting on any of our replies.

Ruth’s last reply was a wink. A way of seeing. I’m ruminating on my reply…

52 Photos ~ An old film photo


Once upon a time, in the first years of our marriage, M and I lived in Pittsburgh, PA. I was working on my master’s degree at the Cathedral of Learning, and M was working at paying the bills and keeping us housed and fed. When the stress of either of those occupations got to be too much, we’d head over to Kennywood, an old fashioned amusement park, and ride the coasters.

I never much liked roller coasters until Kennywood. They scared me to death. I hated the way my stomach lurched when we plummeted down that first major hill. Our first trip to Kennywood, I avoided those rattling carriages of terror.

But there was this one wooden one to the side. It looked quaint. And not too big. I could see the scope of the rises and plummets and they looked bigger than a kiddie coaster, but not that scary. “Let’s try it” we decided, and got in line.

It wasn’t until we were buckled in that we realized the trick: That Kennywood was built over a series of ravines. That there would be no first big clicking climb. That the entire thing was powered by one stomach churning drop, just as the coaster cars left the platform. That the best part of the ride was the part you couldn’t even see while you were waiting, appraising the size of the ride, deciding to tackle it.

There’s no time to prepare or worry. Just plunge, remember to breathe, raise your arms, scream, and laugh while the tears are making horizontal streaks across your cheeks.

The photo above was taken four years before I learned to love that roller coaster (that’s me, second from the right), and two years before M and I became a couple. Most of us in that picture were recently out of college, just embarking on our careers and lives. We were in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, at the trail head at the start of a weekend of backpacking. We had a trail map with a couple possible tent pitching locations circled, a few hours’ walk in. And that’s about all we knew. We didn’t know at that moment that it would start to drizzle, then to rain, then to pour for the rest of the weekend.

We didn’t know about the rises and ravines ahead of each us, the loves, the losses, the jobs, the babies, the miscarriages, the accomplishments, the disappointments, the adventures. We set out, laughing, wholly unprepared and excited for the ride of our lives.


This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.