Writer. Photographer. Musician. Mountain-loving chocolate hound.

Photo by my friend Ellie Stephano, 2010–1st summer in Alaska

My first rejection as a writer came from a Reader’s Digest editor. I was eleven years old, living in the Rocky Mountains west of Denver. My English teacher, Mr. Upzack, sent a note home asking my parents if he could submit my homework assignment to the publication. It didn’t go well.

I wish that story were sitting in a scrapbook somewhere. I remember it was about a bear family with two cubs. The narrator was one of the kid cubs. …


An issue in the glove box

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Cindy sat at my kitchen table while her husband Jack stirred a pot of Thai Curry he whipped up in the kitchen. They arrived from Indiana the previous night, parked their hybrid SUV and pull-behind trailer beneath the Ponderosa trees on my land in a place I’ve deemed “Wagner’s Campsite.” They are dear friends. I’ve known them twenty-five years and witnessed the birth of their two stunning daughters, now attending college.

Cindy’s hair is the color of fresh, golden straw that sits above her shoulders in a bob cut. At 54, she wears short jogging shorts and has model legs…


And trusting life is exactly as it should be

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

Rain fell onto the metal roof and ran in rivulets off the eaves soaking the ground around the cabin. It was more summers ago than I care to count. The redolence of coffee rose in tiny steam tornados, my hands wrapped for warmth around the clay mug. Footsteps thunked on the front porch then a, “knock, knock, knock” hit the door.

“Who is it?” I hollered in a sleepy morning voice.

“It’s me.” My heart jumped when the sound of him fell into my ears.

“Come in.”

All six-foot-three of him ducked beneath the door frame

His almost-black morning hair was wildly askew, and his sky-blue eyes shone in…


How my lucky number connected me to people around the world

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Elevator jazz assaulted my ear as the phone pressed against it. An occasional disembodied syrupy voice interrupted, “Your expected wait time is two minutes.” I was borrowing my neighbor’s landline since the cell service in this valley is non-existent.

A man with a thick Indian accent piped through from somewhere far away, “Hello and thanks for calling Frontier; how can I help you?”

After spending three months living in a Tipi on my friend’s land, I was more than excited to move into a little straw-bale cottage a few miles down the road. The walls were two feet thick, plastered…


How failing taught me more than succeeding

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Last summer, I enrolled in an Essay/Creative Nonfiction class with Gotham Writers, a New York City online writing school. Half a year later, I can safely say it changed my life. I was a writer before this class: a professional songwriter and a devoted Morning Pages writer. But essays, in my mind, were boring things we wrote in school to get a grade. I was very wrong about that assumption.

Beth Livermore Hersch, the essay teacher, is a prize-winning, widely published journalist, but her pedigree is not what lit me on fire. It was her passion for essay and short…


Sometimes angels ride Harleys

Photo by Julián Nielfa Gracia on Unsplash

The warm, low-angle light of the setting sun blasted through the windshield, blew through my sunglasses, and pummeled my squinting eyes. I glanced down for a reprieve from the glare and noticed the red needle on the gas gauge kissing E.

My butt was numb from sitting in the driver’s seat. I guess Marilyn’s was too because she turned to me from the passenger side and said, “I have to pee. Can we get off at the next exit?” …


An unexpected moment of grief shared with an unusual friend.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Late afternoon sun angles across the meadow, creating a facade of warmth on this chilly early March day. My black rubber chore boots squish in the mud left by the last rain as I make my way down the garden trail.

Moments before it is crushed beneath the weight of me, a soft purple glow poking up on the edge of the path catches my eye.

Hello Crocus.

Wow, spring is here for sure now. Never mind that tonight night it will dip to 22 degrees Fahrenheit and maybe snow a few inches. …


Emotional shopping = comfort food.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

I just lost my mind. I’m about to drop $200 online buying new clothes. You know those cute little boutique clothing ads that pop up on Facebook from time to time when you’re scrolling? They are the scourge of the earth.

It’s not the $200 that bothers me, although I’m sure the car payment is a better use of those funds. Or how about groceries? In the past, in our pre-Covid reality, shopping in thrift stores was one of my favorite outings — a form of self-love. No guilt, I was buying recycled clothes. …


A prophetic dream foretells a fork in the road of life.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It is twilight. Lavender-blue glow fills the sky.

I am alone, standing on the side of a two-lane blacktop road feeling lost. The white line painted on the asphalt at my feet stretches for miles to the north.

I hear a distant hum behind me to the south. A black car approaches and slows down, stopping on the road in front of me. The passenger window is down. A gentle-spirited man with long black hair peppered with gray strands falling well past his shoulders has one hand on the wheel. …

Michelle McAfee

Writer Musician Photographer Wilderness Lover Creative Instigator Gardener

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