Baking Banitza in Bulgaria


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One of the best parts of adoption recovery is going places I never could have imagined.
During a recent Viking River Cruise, I spent a couple days in  the beautiful riverside town of Vidin, Bulgaria. Nestled in spectacular scenery, Vidin boasts medieval castle and a spectacular rock formation, Belogradchik. Those sights were wondrous indeed, but the most fun was meeting Ramona, her husband Pavel and her aunt Rosemary, who taught us—a small group of travelers who’d opted for the “extra” side excursion— a cooking class.

Entering our host's home-pleasant and airy

Entering our host’s pleasant, airy home just outside Vidin.

From Vidin, we took a van to a tiny outlying village of 100 residents. Ramona greeted us warmly in her front courtyard. We were, she told us, the first Viking visitors of spring. Each of us received welcome kisses on both cheeks and our hostess’s warm smile. Ramona’s husband Pavel offered us small glasses of a homemade vodka-like liquor called “reika,” and we entered the home’s dining room. Folding chairs awaited our band of baking students.

Ramona and Pavel extol the virtues of Bulgarian yoghurt.

Ramona and Pavel extol the virtues of Bulgarian yoghurt.

Ramona passed out sheets of paper with following directions:

Pavel and Ramona’s Homemade Banitza Recipe
1 packet of fine layers of phyllo dough
6 eggs- whip with fork
400 gr. of white cheese
half a tea cup of yoghurt
half a teacup* of cooking oil (Sunflower recommended)
half a teacup of fizzy drink (lemonade or Mountain Dew)
half a teaspoon of saleratus (baking soda)
half a packet of butter (1 stick, unsalted)

Crumble the white cheese in a big bowl, add the eggs. Put the saleratus into the yoghurt, stir it and pour it into the bowl. Add the cooking oil and the fizzy drink. Stir everything well.
Heat the oven to 180C (350 F)
Spread some cooking oil over the pan. Put some layers of dough over the bottom of the baking tin. Sprinkle with some of the mixture. Put some other layers of dough and some mixture again and again until you fill the pan.
Don’t put any mixture over the last layers of dough. Sprinkle with the melted butter and fizzy drink. Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. Leave it to cool before you cut it. Good appetite and enjoy!
*Note: Ramona used what we call coffee mugs, not giant but medium sized.

The baking class was on! Those who wished to help came forward in shifts to gather around Ramona’s kitchen counter. I’d never worked with phyllo dough before so chose instead to crumble white cheese with a fork. Others beat eggs or stirred baking soda into yoghurt. Soon the banitza was assembled and popped into the oven. Later, it came out and needed to cool. Ramona served a previously baked identical pastry and we marveled at its delectability. It was helpful to learn that one could add all kinds of extras within the layering, from herbs to cinnamon sugar. In other words, one can explore banitza variations.

Hands on: we each had a task

Hands on: we each had a task.

The delectable final product

The delectable final product.

Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Comments welcome!

Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Comments welcome!

Since that experience, I’ve adopted banitza as one of “my” special recipes. Fear of phyllo dough is a thing of the past. I learned that one does not plop it down in a single sheet but crinkles each sheet before layering. The resulting creations, though not as pretty or fluffy as Ramona’s, have tasted great. Like life itself, my banitza baking is a work in progress.

Eastern European Odyssey~Captivated by Croatia


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On a recent cruise on the Danube River through Eastern Europe, I fell in love with each IMG_0160new place. But of all five countries—Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania—I was most captivated by Croatia. Having survived occupations, brutal wars, cultural genocide, and economic disaster, Croatia, with its beautiful scenery, young population, and neoclassical architecture amidst gutted out buildings, is an upbeat location.

My travel buddy Gloria and I are out walking. It is a peaceful Sunday afternoon in Vukovar, Croatia, a city of 25,000. Ravaged through the1990s by the Balkan Wars, the city conveys an air of survival. It offers a sobering combination: lovely Neoclassical architecture as well as gutted out buildings.

“Why,” asked a fellow travelers, doesn’t the government just raze these wrecked buildings and rebuild? Why let them fall into further decrepitude?”IMG_0149

Our guide intimates that there are two main reasons. Many of the original owners of these sad buildings fled the country and cannot be located. Additionally, there is a nationwide shortage of money. Rebuilding will take a long, long time. In outlying areas beyond the peaceful town of Vukovar, there are still minefields. German Shepherds are sniffing out explosives.

We stroll about, enjoying the open city arcade with its traditional obelisk, a monument surrounded by statues: saints, mythological figures, military heroes. The yellow and white municipal buildings lend an air of order and civility to this formerly war-torn area.

Sunday strolling

Sunday strolling in the heart of Vukovar

Back onboard our longship, theVili, we are treated to a quintet of Croatian musicians, a group that calls itself “Veritas.” Strumming and plucking a variety of stringed instruments,the young musicians serenade us. They are exuberant and clearly talented. One feels that they are living up to their name, “Veritas.” (In Roman mythology, Veritas, meaning truth, was the goddess of truth, a daughter of Saturn and the mother of Virtue.)IMG_0163

The virtue of truthfulness, was considered one of the main virtues any good Roman should possess.  The truth of Croatia, it seems, is that life goes on.


Join Elaine every other Monday for a new post. She writes about adoption, hiking and life. You’re invited to comment! IMG_0152

Adoptee’s Annual Shakespeare Contest


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FOUR HUNDRED YEARS OLD! April marks the BIRTHDAY of great English poet and

Remembering Shakespeare on April 23

Remembering Shakespeare on April 23

playwright, William Shakespeare. For me, it means ADOPTING SHAKESPEARE- HIS LANGUAGE, HIS PLAYS, HIS SONNETS, and you’re invited to join in. On Saturday, the Sweet Swan of Avon (who lived from April 23, 1564-April 23, 1617) turns 400! To celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday, please send (via Twitter, to @TheGoodbyeBaby) your favorite Shakespearean quotations, thereby entering my annual Shakespeare contest.   Quotation competition takes place in the Twitterverse. To be considered, send your quotations via the Internet,  posting them on Twitter.

Sonnet 73 is one of my favorites in the Bard’s magnificent canon. The narrator speaks of the ravages of time on one’s physical well-being and the mental anguish associated with moving further from youth and closer to death. The “death,” point out critics, may be not may be the end of life but rather, the demise of youth and passion. Beginning when I first read this poem in a college literature class,  I’ve appreciated it more each year. Sometimes I focus on the narrator’s sadness, other occasions on the tenderness and love. Read Sonnet 73 aloud and see what resonates with you.

An aged tree on Canyon Road- photo by Beth Stephens
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
-William Shakespeare

At the contest’s end (TBA), copies of Shakespeare scholar Robin Williams’ “The Shakespeare Papers” will be mailed to the four best entries. As the song goes, “Brush up on your Shakespeare…start quoting him now.” My contest runs through May 1.


Author Elaine Pinkerton posts bi-weekly about adoption, hiking, and life. Comments are welcome.IMG_1121



Eastern European Odyssey – Part II


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To wander is to be alive.
― Roman Payne

Travel gives one a chance to look at life from a different perspective. Since I view the world through “adoption colored glasses,” I think of what I see and do as a way to escape my adoption conundrums, a means of moving beyond the lens of my own existence. A recent Viking River cruise to five countries—Hungary, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania—truly expanded my horizons.

The trip was full of castles, fortresses, history, beautiful landscape and cultural wonders. That said, the small gem-like experiences are what I most cherish. One such gem occurred on the third day of our 10-day journey. We were in Kalocsa, Hungary. A short drive from town took us to the Bakodpuszta Equestrian Center.

Surrounded by many acres of farmland, the horse center is part of a working farm. Residents of the Hungarian Pustza (roughly translated, this means “grassland” or IMG_0086“treeless flat place.” ) IMG_0083love their horses and cherish the tradition of horsemanship. For centuries, people in this region have relied on the elegant Hungarian Warmblood breed for transportation, settlement and defending their land.

The morning was cool and overcast. Our group of twenty travelers were welcomed with shot glasses of rakia and slices of bread with pig drippings and paprika.  Thus fortified, we climbed into the bleachers that faced an oval-shaped dirt field. At one end, an oboe player serenaded us with mournful ballads. In seconds, the horses and their riders appeared, galloping around the ring. Adding to the going-back-in-time feeling, the riders were decked out in baggy royal blue trousers, capes and gallant black hats. Definitely made us feel at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. It was thrilling, heartwarming. Beauty in motion. The following photos are just a few of the highlights…

The show took me back to my 12-year-old self when I drew horses, wanted to own IMG_0118 (1)one, and was literally in love with horses. Just about everything, I’ve learned, can be part of adoption recovery. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve “recovered” enough to stop “recovering” and start living. Whatever the case, I’m grateful for that special morning.
To learn more about Hungarian horsemanship, check out

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Please comment and share your own transformative.journeys.

Adopting Other Countries – An Odyssey through Eastern Europe


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“Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.” -Anonymous

It’s been said that others can know us better than we know ourselves. A close friend once told me that because I’ve resolved all those thorny “adoption issues,” I would now be free to live my life. Resolution? Being “over it”? Could that be possible? At the time, I thought that my friend was being overly optimistic. Wasn’t it true that the feelings of abandonment and alienation would never vanish, that freedom was an illusion? However, maybe, just maybe, my friend was right. Last night, I returned from nine days aboard a Viking longship, sailing on the Danube River through Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. I opened myself up completely to new experiences, to learning about countries that had been just names, to people and cultures previously unknown. Welcome to this account of my five-country odyssey through Eastern Europe.

I went with Viking River Cruises, an excellent travel outfit that hires superb guides in every place you visit. The formula is simple: sail mainly at night, tour about on foot and by bus every day. Our first day was spent in Budapest, the capital of Hungary. An enchanting city that straddles the Danube, Budapest used to be two cities: Buda and Pest. Buda is on one side, and it’s full of Art Nouveau buildings, castles and palaces; modern Pest (pronounced “Pesht) is on the other. The magnificent Chain Bridge, along with eight other bridges, join the two-cities-in-one.

Herewith, a pictorial travelogue illustrating my journey’s beginning…

Open air arts market near our Hotel. Lunched on goulash and bought handcrafted stationery.

Open air arts market near our Hotel. Lunched on goulash and bought handcrafted stationery.


Bomo Art booth  – journals to book marks, hand crafted, no two alike!

Leaving Budapest for Kalosca. Just outside the Sofitel Hotel: flower-filled park and military statuary.

Leaving Budapest for Kalosca. Just outside the Sofitel Hotel: flower-filled park and military statuary.


The famous Chain Bridge, Castle District in the background (Buda in the background). About to set sail for Kalosca.

Budapest took my breath away. It is historic, quite beautiful, endlessly fascinating. On a personal note, I feel that the previously divided nature of this capital symbolizes my adoption journey, a kind of coming home to unity. However, Budapest is just the beginning. Please stay tuned for more chapters of this adoptee’s Eastern European travelogue.IMG_0021Here I am with Tina, artist/businesswoman whose book arts boutique ( was a highlight of our first day in Hungary.





Haiku Monday – Adopting the Seasons


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Note from Elaine: My poet friend Roberta Fine loves Northern New Mexico’s landscape, weather, moods and terrain. Like me, she has lived in this part of the country for many decades. The drama of Southwestern landscape is captured in her exquisite word sketches. Enjoy this poetic retrospective of 2015.


Sunless and socked in

Sunless and socked in

by Roberta Fine

Clouds obscuring sky
Three grey days without a gleam
Faces growing glum.

Snowflakes hurrying
Falling fast as twilight falls
Fire popping, sizzling.

Yesterday’s whiteness
Warming into rich brown mud
Finch splashing puddle.

Apricot blossoms
Ahead of time, yet again
Meeting early death.

Twitter filled morning
Moist, soft air muffling bird talk.
Coffee scent drifting.

Fat English roses
Exhaling spicy perfume
Arching branches low.

New Mexico's sunflowers grace the late summer months.

Along with zinnas, sunflowers grace the late summer months.

Ragweed, tumbleweed
Stalking roadsides, lanes, gardens.
Rabbit chomps zinnias.

Roasted rose petals
Thirsting for the cool of cloud.
Zinnas flaunting red.

Summer lingering,
Apples dropping to the ground.
Nippy night begs fire.

Bluebirds gracing fence
Stopping for a feeding break.
Copper breasts match leaves.

Snow flowers blooming,
Clinging to long pine needles
Moist rug spot widens.

Full moon owning night —
Pearly light on festive crowd—
Church bells summoning.


HAIKUshort poems that use words to capture a feeling or image of nature, beauty, or a particular sensory moment.. They are usually written as three lines: the first contains 5 syllables, the second line 7 syllables, the third line 5 syllables.

Roberta Fine lives in Jacona, New Mexico and has been known to write a Haiku every img_0061day for entire years. In addition to writing poetry, she is a talented artist and creative cook. She can be reached at

All in a Day’s Hike


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“In the deserts of the heart, let the healing fountains start.”-W. H. Auden

Heartfelt wishes expressed in Nature

Heartfelt wishes expressed in Nature

The day began with alarming news. A lifelong friend, a fellow author, had been moved from Santa Fe’s hospital to a “Medical Resort” in Albuquerque. She was recovering from surgery that removed a cyst on her spine. Her health was already precarious because of Parkinson’s Disease, and now this. I talked to her husband, conveyed to him my love and healing wishes, but I felt powerless to really help the situation.

Feeling disheartened, I phoned my friend Kay (not her real name) and invited her to hike Monte Sol (Sun Mountain) with me. She motored over to my house, and in 15 minutes we were on the path. We found heart-shaped rocks to place in what I’ve come to call our “memory tree.”

We worked our way up the narrow twists and turns to the summit, slightly less than a mile but an 800-foot ascent. The narrow trail up Monte Sol is a series of ever sharper switchbacks. At the top, one must climb boulders, scale gravely areas and step ever more carefully.

Two-thirds of the way up there is a lookout spot – some sofa-like boulders that provide a convenient rest spot. Kay, who’d just come from two weeks at sea level, decided that she would wait there while I went to the top. She needed some time at our 7,000-foot altitude to fully acclimatize. So she rested; I went onward and upward.

As she contemplated the sweeping vistas below – Santa Fe nestled in a high mountain

The Boulder Field

The Boulder Field

plateau – I hiked swiftly to the top. There, I visited what I’ve come to call “the memory tree.” She’s an old, weathered, dead piñon. Actually, she has a name: “Melanie.” I’ve used this tree for years as a repository. In its branches, I place heart shaped rocks, dedicated to folks who are ill or who’ve passed away. Sometimes I find them on the trail; other times I bring them from home. I placed a heart in one of Melanie’s branches for my ill friend and dedicated a silent meditation for her recovery.

Occasionally I find hearts already in the tree.  Anonymous others have discovered Melanie, placed their stone hearts and no doubt made petitions. It is a gentle way of helping when there’s nothing else we can do.

I said goodbye to Melanie the tree and sent get well wishes to my ill friend. Hurrying, but careful not to skid, I made my way down Monte Sol. Kay, waiting at the rest stop, had been meditating. We completed the downhill trail together.

Always one to come up with good ideas, Kay suggested we go out to lunch to celebrate

Going to a friend's favorite restaurant

Going to a friend’s favorite restaurant

the day.We did, and it was delicious. Organic eggs whipped into an omelet, served on hearty bread.

Since then, I’ve heard that my hospitalized friend is doing better. Her recovery might take months, but she’s in the best possible place. Perhaps the hike I took and the heart I placed may have helped her. I am finding that we are connected in mysterious ways. As an adopted one, today proved to me that in many ways, “friends are the new family.”

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on adoption, hiking, and life

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on adoption, hiking, and life

BOOKS and My Father Richard~Adopting the Past (Part 2)


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My father at age five. Even then he was a bibliophile.

My father at age five. Even then he was a bibliophile.

As one who was adopted at age five, I grew up with two family trees -1. the biological genealogy and 2. the relatives who comprised my adoptive family. Today I’m talking a look at family history from the adoptive side. This is the second installment of a tribute to my late adoptive dad. In my new home, my brother (adopted with me) and I were treated like royalty. Our father Richard read to us every night. I recall listening to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. No one had read to me before. I’d never seen a book. What luxury it was to fall asleep to my dad’s deep, rich baritone. I would have been happy if the book had gone on forever.

All his life my father read eclectically, enormously, exuberantly. An English teacher for many years, a professor of guidance and counseling for most of his career, he collected mysteries, history, poetry, biography, and the classics. My brother and I were encouraged to indulge our love of books. Even though we didn’t have a lot of money, we somehow built up our own book


My mom would outlive my dad by several years, and she diligently sent me not only

My dad pursued photography as well as book collecting.

My dad pursued photography as well as collecting books.

his World War Two letters (collected in a volume titled FromCalcuttaWithLove), she also packed up his books and sent them from Virginia to my home in New Mexico.
I’ll never forget that last cardboard box of literary treasures. Inside were leather-bound copies of The Pickwick Papers, The Brothers Karamazov, Maupassant Short Stories, Twain Short Stories, Tom Sawyer Abroad, A Tale of Two Cities, The Trial and The Works of Poe.

Mark Twain was always one of Richard’s favorite authors. Looking through the Twain volume, I saw on the inside cover, his handwritten “7/28/32,” the date he’d acquired the book. It’s no accident that when I was earning my Masters degree in American Literature, I chose to write my thesis on Twain. Specifically, I wrote on Determinism in Puddn’head Wilson.

Turning to an underscored section in Tom Sawyer Abroad, I read the following quote by Tom:

“As near as I can make out, geniuses think they know it all, and so they won’t take people’s advice, but always go their own way, which makes everybody forsake them and despise them, and that is perfectly natural. If they was humbler, and listened and tried to learn, it would be better for them.”

Tom’s words so perfectly reflected Richard’s homespun, down-to-earth attitude toward life that I laughed through my tears. A bittersweet reminder of the wonderful man he was.

Join Elaine for Monday Blog Posts on adoption and life. Please check out her archived

The Goodbye Baby gives an insider view of growing up adopted.

The Goodbye Baby gives an insider view of growing up adopted.

posts and feel free to add your comments. She is currently seeking first-hand accounts by other adoptees. Subject to review, she will publish your submission as a guest post. For more information, send an e-mail query to

BOOKS and My Father Richard ~Adopting the Past


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 I grew up with two family trees -1. biological 2. adoptive.

My father at age five. Even then he was a bibliophile.

My father at age five. Even then he was a bibliophile.

Years after being adopted, I met my birthparents, and that was helpful if not completely rewarding. I was fortunate to end up with my adoptive parents (family tree #2), and in that vein I’m talking a look at family history from the adoptive side.

My father died on a May morning in Virginia, the state where I grew up and he had lived for 40 years. Richard Leonard Beard was my hero, my role model and — after I moved from Virginia to New Mexico in the 1960s — my favorite pen pal. Before the cruel dementia that ravaged his mind and memory, he was a brilliant and much-loved college professor first at the University of North Carolina (UNC) and then at the University of Virginia (UVa). Of the many gifts my father imparted to me, I cherish most his love of books.

Since that sad, raw Tuesday when Richard gave up his battle for life, I’ve savored memories of this wonderful man. None have been more heartwarming than those provided as I go through his books, which my mother sent me, carton by carton, over a period of three months.

My father was a lover of the written word, a true bibliophile. The oldest of four

Fifties family - I grew up in university towns.

Fifties Family -Growing up in university towns.

children growing out in rural northern Ohio, he was the only one who went to college. The family moved from a farm in Hancock County to Findlay, Ohio, and there for the first time he had access of a library. He started reading voraciously and never stopped. In high school, young Richard was president of 38 clubs, including the book club, the drama team, and the debating club. Ultimately, my father became professor of guidance and counseling, before which he was a high school English teacher. His love of books was conveyed to a multitude of fortunate students, and later, to me.

Times were tough for my biological mother, and-never mind books- she had enough trouble housing and feeding me and my brother. In fact, she couldn’t, and that’s when my new Mom and Dad came into the picture. I can’t recall seeing a book before my “rescue” from grim foster homes and what I considered an orphan’s life.

In the wonderful new home where my brother and I were treated like royalty rather than unwanted burdens, I recall our father reading to us every night. There must have been other bedtime stories, but my most vivid memory is of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Night after night, I would fall asleep to my father’s rich baritones, with visions of the White Rabbit, the Queen of Hearts, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the Jabberwock. He instilled in me a passion for reading and transformed what had been a bleak, booklets childhood. I grew up rich in words, finding through books fantasy, adventure, edification and a world apart that seemed to make up for the first five years of my life.

During the mid-1950s, In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Richard established an

Ahead of his time, Dr. Beard spearheaded a book TV program in the 50s.

Ahead of his time, Dr. Beard spearheaded a book TV program in the 50s.

educational TV program in conjunction with the University of North Carolina, based on books and reading. He was the host and I was a frequent guest. In the meantime, his personal book collection was growing. In thirty years, it would reach over 5,000 volumes. (To be Continued)

Next Week: “Books and My Father Richard,” Part II. Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on adoption, adapting, and life.

Haiku Monday


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Note from Elaine: I’m in the final stages of editing a novel (All the Wrong Places) to be published in late 2016 or early 2017. The process has so consumed me, today’s post, one of my favorites, is a repeat.  My goal for this new year is to focus on gratitude for everything. I’ve flipped the script, from anger to appreciation. Understanding at the heart level has come about after years of searching and reinvention. As an adopted person who’s “adopted” many routes to healing, I’ve found that reading poetry is a balm. It is with great delight that I re-publish these haikus by my poet friend Roberta Fine.
Twelve Graces of 2014

Above the Clouds

Above the Clouds

Baldy’s white cap thins
Brown skull showing through the white
Waiting for a storm.
Fresh snow on Sangres
Opal tinted at sunset
Glow fading slowly.
Lady hawk surveys
White fields from catalpa tree
Great head swiveling.
Buried bulbs revive
In frozen lifeless garen
Reaching for the sun.
Clinging to twin trees
Raven pair tear at pine cones
Then leave together.
White threads vein mountainimages
All that’s left of winter snow
Garden pants for rain.
Fledglings line up
To take a turn at feeders
Lone bird pecks at ground.
Ravens’ raucous call
Splitting summer morning peace
Dewdrops shine on leaves.
Head held high, lone rose
Surviving frosty warning.
Someone’s chopping wood.
Tawny gold valley
Flaunting bold farewell to sun’s
Declining power.
Red chrysanthemumsIMG_0004
Capturing sun’s chilly fire
In sundown’s last glance.
Fuzzy moon peering
Down through tree’s bare black branches
Suggests snow tonight.

HAIKU-short poems that use words to capture a feeling or image of nature, beauty, or a particular sensory moment.. They are usually written as three lines: the first contains 5 syllables, the second line 7 syllables, the third line 5 syllables.
Poet Roberta Fine lives and writes in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Finding inspiration from

Roberta Fine adopted Haiku as her medium of expression


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