timeline project: mid-point review

Drinking from the River of Light by Mark Nepo

I knew it was a dangerous decision to write about spiderwebs. I broke the momentum of the timeline project and now I do not want to return. I like writing about spiderwebs much more than the timeline project. I want to write about the mid-April snowy walk with my sons. I want to write about the sound snow makes when it is sprinkled into a river. I want to write about the wisps wrapping around my mind about the symbiotic nature of story collectors.

A gold glitter album arrived yesterday. I haven’t opened the box, but I know it is in there. I purchased it to house the pages from the timeline project. It is obnoxiously glittered with gold sparkles. All of the reviews complained about the way the glitter sprinkles a trail wherever the album goes. It was perfect–I was sold! Stephanie used to love glitter shirts. She thought it was wickedly funny to hug people (especially Andy) and leave a trail of glitter.

There are eight more years to document for the timeline project. If I return to the pace of one per a day, it will be finished in just over a week. Part of me wants to finish all of the years right now. An even bigger part of me wants them finished yesterday.

One of the BONS (Bits of Nothing or Something, the name of my eclectic writing group, where writing is optional, but storytelling is not), sent me a text message. She wrote —

I know what you are writing about Stephanie must be incredibly hard. I’m sure when you are writing it all those emotions come flooding back. Those memories arise to the surface and it takes hours or days to lock them back away to continue on with life at hand. That’s how I feel anyway about feelings like that. So I want you to know I’m thinking about you as you write those posts. However, it was nice to see the spiderweb one. To take a break and write about the small wonders that surround us each day.

I’m not real sure what happens inside of me when I write the timeline project. I know I feel sick, my stomach twists and I want a cup of too warm tea with a little honey. I know I feel comforted, like I’m gaining a perspective that is beyond the events and reveals a deeper faith than I realized. I know hope is proving courageous and constant. I find love that is filled with grace and mercy.  It seems unsayable, the story that needs documented.

I didn’t know to describe it that way — unsayable — until my friend Cathy sent me a text message with a page from a book we’re reading. I didn’t realize it was a North Star I needed as a writer: “What matters is unsayable. And yet, every attempt to reveal it helps us live.”

I’m sorry if the timeline project, dear reader, makes your stomach twist, too. I’ve found a too warm cup of tea with a little honey makes it more bearable, because if you linger long enough, you will find it is a story of faith, hope and love.

See all of Stephanie Timeline posts here.


  1. Ruth – you always nudge my thinking – just a little farther over the horizon. What if… What if you wrote a double entry journal – on one side Steph Timeline on the other spiderwebs, walks in the snow with sons, all small wondrous things. Maybe then you can make it through more easily, make it through with less grief and more grace. There are some things that heal in jagged ways, embrace them, and keep moving forward. You are helping us all do that. And I’m an avid Steph Timeline reader because I want to uncover WHY? I want to uncover PAIN. I want to share your pain, so YOU will have less of it.

    • Thank you! I know you wrote these words nearly a week ago, but they’ve been sticking with me. Jagged healing — yes, that’s it, exactly!

      • Yes – jagged healing. I know it well, so that’s why I offered the concept to you. You know how kids (people) don’t learn in just and uphill way – there are plateaus, there are set backs. It is the same with healing – it is not one miraculous smooth ride, but if you keep going on its jagged path – you will heal and find peace.

  2. It is a hard walk on this healing path, to be sure! It reminds me of hiking up a steep trail
    and then sitting down, eating a snack and sipping some refreshing water then noticing something right there that brings comfort and delight. When you look back to the trail there is another steep incline around the bend. This makes it a struggle to get going again. But you do because you know this stop is only part way through the journey. Your trail partners are calling, providing encouraging words. God, himself spurs you on. You aren’t traveling alone. I am adding my hugs, love and prayers, too. I see you writing it all with maybe a bit of gold glitter on your keyboard.

  3. Ironically, I am reading this post today with a cup of tea. I don’t usually add honey, but I did today. I can relate to your desire to take a break, write about something like spiderwebs and walks. It’s fine. The only person you are relying on is yourself. Take the pace you need. There is something powerful stirring in you that needs time, like a caterpillar in its chrysalis, to change into something beautiful.

    • Margaret, your words are nourishment & I kinda love knowing you are reading with a cup of tea! Thank you for the encouragement.

  4. I think it takes “faith, hope, and love”, too, Ruth. Despite the tough going, that “hope” to me means that someday Stephanie will be better and want to see the love you’ve written into her story, and the faith you never stopped having that she would be better. Seeing the beauty in our world, like those spiderwebs, may be the strenght to keep on, like the honey in your tea! Hugs for writing this. I appreciate that you’re sharing.

    • I keep writing, in part, because I know you’re reading. Your comments help me see the shape of the story. Thank you sooooo much!