From the author of Playing After Dark (1986), whose essays have appeared regularly in the ""Hers"" column of the New York Times: another collection of anecdotal, quasi-inspirational driblets, centering here on the Janus face of loving--its joys and keen pleasures, its griefs and risks. Ascher writes airily, smoothly; there's a modicum of preachifying (a dated whack or two at the stereotypical career-blinkered feminist) and maximum volleys on behalf of Dillard-style yea-saying, without Dillard's cosmic journeying Middle age, declares Ascher, priming the pump, ""is a time for taking stock,"" when one learns ""that life is a bit of a cheat. . .that with love there is never enough time."" One learns to let go; parents must release their young. Several essays deal with dealing--with the teens' towering self-righteousness and then the emotional entrapments and freeing options of the inevitable separation. Separations--from mother, from child--hurt, and continue to haunt--as witness Ascher's amusing account of vacationing adults bumbling about, determined, willy-nilly, to reunite baby chicks with an elusive hen. Memories hold delicious, aching gladness, also guilty shock: How could a law student have left her sick child? ""No matter [love's] depth and passion, self-interest can lead it temporarily astray."" There are dangers and risks all around loved family, friends, and places as they are loved and love in return. Ascher warns against the smothered heart, however: ""hunt down. . .passions and let them lead. . ."" One must opt for a power other than that of the marketplace, for example: ""Being the proud possessor of power bears an uncanny similarity to being a two-year-old with the biggest plastic pail and shovel on the beach. It's a life of nervous guardianship."" A featured pre-pub kudo comes from Anne Morrow Lindbergh, whose own collection of gentle sermonettes built from attractive recognitions and affections was popular a generation ago. Just possibly the time may be ripe for more of the mild and soothing same.