Northern Pygmy Owl, in shades of Aubergine [Illustration by Renée Butcher]

Z and I have known one another since our early teens, when we met at Camp Namanu on the shores of the Sandy River. Almost every year, we go to the annual camp Reunion weekend together, where we like to stay in a particular cabin that is situated on a steep hill. In order to maintain the trail on this hill so that it doesn’t become a veritable mud slide during the rainy season, steps have been cut out and reinforced with what looks to be railroad ties.

One evening, as Z and I climbed the trail to our cabin…


My husband, Rick, keeps telling me we have too many mugs — that they are taking up too much space on our shelves, and I need to get rid of some of them. But which ones?

How about this one — my Mama Bear mug? It’s the companion to his Papa Bear mug. Every time I see them sitting on the shelf, I think about the year we really started to feel like a family. I can’t give that one up. It took so many years to get it.

Or how about my big green Tinkerbell mug? We got that…


After my father died too soon from Parkinson’s complications, my mother’s older sister Dorothy Ellen, in no uncertain terms, assumed the mantle of family matriarch. Known to everyone as Auntie, Dorothy Ellen went on to lead our family for another ten years before she passed away at the age of ninety-four.

I know that Auntie would be pleased that I chose this particular day — International Women’s Day; a day set aside each year around the globe to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women — to pay her tribute. …


Still Crushing It After All These Years

Mural in front of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California.
Mural in front of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California.

Were he still with among us, John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. would have turned 118 years old today. The acclaimed author knew by age 14 that he wanted to be a writer, and once inspired never abandoned that calling. Over the course of his career, he wrote twenty-seven books, most notably East of Eden, Of Mice & Men, and The Grapes of Wrath. His body of work earned him a Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1962, and the admiration of hopeful young writers for generations to come — myself included.

I discovered Steinbeck at thirteen, when I became obsessed with reading…


{Father’s Day, 2013}

A man walked by me in Safeway wearing Old Spice the other day. The smallest things are reminding me… Father’s Day is here again.

Last Thursday, I stood in the Hallmark store at the mall, searching out two Father’s Day cards — one being for my husband. My girls aren’t ready to give him a card yet — I don’t know when or if they ever will. I think a couple may, someday. One never will. He isn’t their father of course, so they don’t even think of it yet — a card. How could they? Why should they?

That…


Image Credit: Roberto Fantana [CC BY-NC 2.0]

I can no longer sit quietly by: I have too much skin in this game. This is for all six of my daughters, and my Girl Scouts, and my counselors-in-training, and my Namanu sisters, and my nieces, and my granddaughters, and every other woman in my life, and the men who love and support them.

If you are a woman and have managed to get through life so far without being sexually assaulted, Yay for you. You were lucky.

I was not lucky. I am no longer a Victim, but my 18-year old self was. She was left terrified and…


Image Credit: Florian Schwalsberger via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

We choose a table in the sun this evening at Greek Cusina, my husband and I, and talk about old friends while we wait for our dolmathes to arrive. You drift toward us like coal smoke, charred and unruly, and begin pacing back and forth in front of the restaurant.

Step, step, step, step.

A car with a bad muffler goes by and sets off the alarm of a dark green Blazer parked just up the street. The Blazer toots, screams, ding-dings, honks, whistles and finally, thankfully, falls silent. My husband and I laugh that no one moved a fraction…


A few late night reflections on parenting

When I was a young mother, pony-tailed and skipping over stairs strewn with toppled towers and dress-up silks, I was sure that by the time my baby was in high school, my floors would be clean, my laundry folded, my walls painted, my garden abundant, and the first of my novels published.

It was a fantasy.

Because as my children got older, I realized that the hitches and glitches of the Duplo generation are nothing compared to those of adolescence. Hunger, fatigue, sogginess — I can fix those. Junior high drama and broken hearts are not so easy.

And then…


{An International Women’s Day Tribute}

Our Auntie Dorothy Ellen, my mother’s older sister, was ninety-four when she passed away. I’m not sure if “matriarch” is the appropriate term for someone who never married or had children, but it feels right here: after the death of my dad a decade ago, she — in no uncertain terms — assumed the mantle as the head of our family.

I know that Auntie would be pleased that I chose this particular day — a day set aside each year around the globe to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women…

Renée Butcher

Writer, Artist, Music Maker & Blogger. 🌻 In my spare time, I write unfinished novels and songs about cowboys. #binders #kindnessmatters

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