Ben Photos Collage
Photos by Benjamin Morse Archer, Summer 2015.  Clockwise from lower left: Taos, New NM: Lake Lemon, CO; Pagosa Springs and Navajo Lake.


Haiku for You, Mariana

There is a kindness —
Unexpected, disarming —
That knocks down all walls;

That leaves you breathless;
That, for a moment, stuns you;
That opens your heart.

Mariana, you
Gave me this kindness last night;
An idea. Hope.

I got your letter.
I read it to my husband.
I burst out crying.

What if they find him,
Alive? Or… My brain stopped, dead,
At that awful door.

This will take courage.
No. This will take all of it.
Everything I have.

I have looked away
For a long time now as I
Searched for a harbor.

This storm has tossed me
Against rocks so jagged I
Nearly died from it.

I manifested
Illness throughout my body
Driven by my fear.

Nights without sleeping
When fear roared too loudly; or
Nightmares, constantly.

I saw him dying
Over and over again;
Macabre cinema.

I thought I would go mad.
Years of this. Sicker. Sadder,
But grasping at hope.


It was no accident that
You found that service

On the day I turned,
Feeling strong enough at last
To face this again.

I wrote to a friend
Last night before your letter*
Came to my inbox.

*Your letter came 11 hours ago as of this writing. Mine to my friend was only five hours before that. 

I said, “I’m ready.
“Will you be my confidante.
In daily letters?”

The letter was titled,
“Care enough, strong enough, trust
enough, wise enough…

Time enough.” It is
A big ask. I was inspired
By Jim Beaver’s book

“Life’s That Way,” daily
Letters to his friends giving
News of his wife’s day.

She, love of his life,
Was diagnosed with cancer
And loved ones were scared.

So he wrote daily
From pain, but with courage. I
was mesmerized.

If I go back; if
I combine all my letters,
Journals, from Day 1

I could start again,
I thought. Except now I’d write
Only to those who

Felt they could hear it
and, most crucially, have time
Enough to do so.

This is a journey
Others are making. When I
Listened to Jim

I felt like I was
Given tools to face my own
Journey with more grace.

Then, I felt as if
I could perhaps, someday, help
Others on this path.

Then, Mariana,
I got your letter. Thank you
With all of my heart.

To me, this was God
Saying, “Yes. The time is now.
Write. Begin today.”

6 May 2020


care enough / strong enough / trust enough / wise enough / time enough

(16 hours ago)
Dear Friend,

I am listening to Jim Beaver’s book, Life’s That Way.  Jim plays Bobby in Supernatural.  That’s how I first came to know him. I didn’t really watch Deadwood or his other shows.  Bobby is probably my favorite character in Supernatural. I didn’t realize just how much of Bobby was made of Jim.

If you don’t know the story, Life’s That Way is about Jim’s wife Cecily Adams’ battle with lung cancer. I’m only on the second chapter so far.  As sad as this story is, and as hard as it is to hear sometimes, it’s also captivating.  I feel like I slipped into the library at Supernatural Bobby’s house near the old junkyard, and he’s reading a story about some other man which may or may not be true. It feels sort of surreal so far and I keep hoping it isn’t true. There’s a lot of pain in it but there’s also courage.  And he’s got a great voice.

Not sure if I told you, but we have Netflix.  So, whenever I don’t find something that interests me at that particular moment, which is often, I put on a Supernatural episode. Over the years, that’s totaled up to about four times watching through all of it except the latest seasons.  Those I’ve watched at least twice.  So far.  I think most of those were in the first year after Ben disappeared. Didn’t sleep much.

I’m not sure what it is about that show.  Dean is very familiar to me, a kind of combination between my father when he was young and my son Ben — a lady’s man, confident, cool, a bit of a chauvinist, somewhat narrow-minded in some ways, but loyal to a fault.  Sam is like Joe in some ways — quiet, bullheaded, a bit awkward at times when flustered, brilliant and more compassionate at least on the surface, than his older brother.  My boys love the show too and we’d sometimes watch it together.  Mike likes it too.

I follow all the actors on Instagram.  Another favorite from that show is Felicia Day.  That girl brings sunlight into everything she touches.  I just watched her play a live DND game with The Guild cast on Twitch and helped her raise $40,000 in the first 30 minutes for “No Kid Hungry.” And by helped her I mean I pitched in a whopping 40 bucks.  It was agreed as a family that I could use ten percent of my half of the stimulus any way I like, no questions asked.  Well, I gave it all away, then talked my family up to 20 percent, gave that away too.  It’s hard to see so much suffering, now more than ever, and not want to keep doing that, but Mike (thankfully) has his feet firmly planted on the ground.  He keeps me tethered, most of the time.

So today, I saw Jim had a new post, a rare event for him, on Instagram.  He’s doing some live show on the 9th of May.  Then I noticed a few posts before that he also has a book out.  I found out it was on Audible and that, even better, he’s reading it.  So since we have a few credits, I bought it.

I have cried at least five times since I began.  I keep marking places I want to remember for Gems quotes.  This book is the culmination of his letters over a period of, I think, years as they struggled with her diagnosis and her chemo and everything that goes along with being parents of a beautiful “autistic” (misdiagnosed) 2-year old girl.

It’s a nice break to listen and try to get over my Benedryl hangover instead of wading through hundreds of “more money please” emails I’m getting on this Giving Tuesday. If I could, I’d give more.  But I can’t risk my family disowning me.  I would be in big trouble without them — geez, just got yet another email.  The same charity wrote earlier today.  All of them are urgent.  We give regularly to several and more since our stimulus check. I’ve signed a lot of petitions through the Daily Kos too, especially lately.  There are so many stupid things happening in our government and I can’t even go there or I’ll start frothing at the mouth.

I sometimes tweet my views on Twitter.  This may or may not impress my four followers.  My goal with under1000skies is to inspire people and to connect homeless creatives.  The two homeless creatives that I, formerly completely housebound, have managed to meet have homes now and we’re still in touch off and on.  I feel blessed to know both of them.  So now under1000skies has become something else.  It’s now about doing what Bob Marley says:  “Light up the darkness.”


Speaking of lights, we sent Evie a gift card for her birthday this year — seventh. How did that happen? I get to see her nearly daily.  Grammy reading time.  Or I’ll hang out with Millie and the Bear Club while Kel tutors Evie.  It’s been great.  Evie decided to get a camera with her birthday money.  Kel sent me two pix of Evie holding her camera.  Beautiful choice huh?  Do you remember your first camera? I do.  It was a “pocket” camera with a pack of stickers so you could personalize it.  I wore it out and spent all my money on getting the film developed.

I’ve been listening to Melissa Ethridge’s live concerts on YouTube.  She’s on Day 40 something.  Every single day she’s doing concerts. Great stuff too but I’ve only had a chance to listen to about four of them.  Any concert I attend, I’ve been leaving love letters in comments. On Twitter too.  Today she asked fans to pick their favorite song from her first album which just hit its 32nd anniversary.  No one wants to pick one.  I said it feels like those songs are burned into my DNA. I wish I could say Mozart or Chopin are burned into my DNA but they didn’t hit my heart and help me scream out pain and call it singing.  Melissa did.  Repeatedly.

So, the title of this email.  I’m thinking of taking everything I’ve written about over the past four years since Ben disappeared and putting it together into some kind of order.   I’m not ready to say I’m strong enough to have answers, but maybe I’m getting closer.  And I want to continue the story in letters, like Bobby… er, Jim does.  He wrote every day to a group of friends, maybe 20 or so I think.  It got to where it was being forwarded and read by around 5000 people a day.   He was candid, but never maudlin.  He was strong but admitted when he was weak.  And listening to him read his letters, I felt — struggling with how to describe this.  Less alone I guess.  But that’s not it. It’s more like he’s giving me tools to get through my own stuff with a little more grace.

The thing is, I can’t think of anyone who would fit the criteria needed for this kind of project, (save maybe one or two) who 1. cares enough to read anything I have to say about Ben on a regular basis; 2. is strong enough not be pulled down by it; 3. that I trust enough to tell the unfiltered truth to (or as close as I can get to that in letters); 4. wise enough to know I don’t need fixing, advice, saving, or correcting; instead, I just need a safe place for my soul to speak; and, 5. (maybe most crucially), has time enough.

I know you’re strong, compassionate, wise, and trustworthy, but this is a lot to ask of anyone, even an old and dear friend.  So think about it and get back to me.  If the answer IMG_9055 (1)is no, I will understand, trust me.

I’m sending this same letter to you and maybe one or two other people.**  I haven’t decided who yet. My husband isn’t one of those only because of #5.  He is and always will be my #1 person, but he is helping lots of folks get virtually connected now since that is his area of expertise.

**you, dear reader and friend

It’s nearly 4:00 PM. Almost time for bed. I’m trying to stay on a UK schedule so I can be available for my girls.  It’s nice. The early morning hours are my favorite times to work.  Then I get to walk outside and take pictures of the violets that are still thriving in my back yard.

♥. Niki Flow