What Happens When We Die

Maria Popova shares wonderful and intriguing thoughts in The Marginalian.  Today I read her thoughts on how we deal with death. She quotes from Alan Lightman’s book Mr. g: A Novel about the Creation.

Alan Lightman: 

A woman dies.  At that moment, there were 3,​147,​740,​103,​497,​276,​498,​750,​208,​327 atoms in her body. Of her total mass, 63.7 percent was oxygen, 21.0 percent carbon, 10.1 percent hydrogen, 2.6 percent nitrogen, 1.4 percent calcium, 1.1 percent phosphorous, plus a smattering of the ninety-odd other chemical elements created in stars. 

In the cremation, her water evaporated. Her carbon and nitrogen combined with oxygen to make gaseous carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, which floated skyward and mingled with the air. Most of her calcium and phosphorous baked into a reddish brown residue and scattered in soil and in wind.

Released from their temporary confinement, her atoms slowly spread out and diffused through the atmosphere. In sixty days’ time, they could be found in every handful of air on the planet. In one hundred days, some of her atoms, the vaporous water, had condensed into liquid and returned to the surface as rain, to be drunk and ingested by animals and plants. Some of her atoms were absorbed by light-utilizing organisms and transformed into tissues and tubules and leaves. Some were breathed in by oxygen creatures, incorporated into organs and bone.

He continues on and I tempt you into reading her whole article, and then the book with these words.  

And the individual atoms, cycled through her body and then cycled through wind and water and soil, cycled through generations and generations of living creatures and minds, will repeat and connect and make a whole out of parts. Although without memory, they make a memory. Although impermanent, they make a permanence. Although scattered, they make a totality.


The passage of the virus is showing us how we are all connected, and last night there was an underwater volcanic eruption near the Tonga Islands.  This morning a tsunami warning has been issued along the west coast of the U.S.

I remember we had a tsunami warning when my children were in elementary school.  The principal marched the children up the hill for safety.  Nothing happened but the concern was ocean water could sweep up through the Tennessee Valley to the school.  I felt the principal did the right thing, and the children loved being outside, and yet, he was criticized.

I vote for erring on the side of caution, and so today a pause and gratitude for Mother Nature and her wake-up calls as we respond to her need to move, juggle,  and jiggle the elements we transition, transform, and share.


Looking at Angel Island from Sausalito yesterday


It’s the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr..  He said:  “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Above Tennessee Valley
Tennessee Valley beach on Thursday – Winter Light

Letting Go

I haven’t stayed connected with my high school class but thanks to social media, I am now connected.  This morning I learned that another from my class of 1967 has passed away.  She had dementia the last few years.  I try to align the information with the exuberant cheerleader I remember.  She’s not the only one I know my age who has gotten dementia and passed away.

It’s an odd entry into this new day where gratitude is the only song I need.  I hear the garbage trucks as my garbage sorted into three cans, trash, recycling and compost, is carted away.

Connection – 

Molting – 

Trust that bonds are never broken, simply carried away – like the moon pulling the tides.

A Day of Springtime

Today I felt like Mole in one of my favorite books, Wind in the Willows.  Spring was calling. One room in particular beckoned. I moved the desk to open and wash the windows. Then, I looked around in quest of a whole new look. I moved the couch, then, the bookcase, piling up books to give away. Now, candles are lit, lights are on, and it’s open, fresh, and cozy, all at the same time.  

I won’t go down to the river like Mole. I’m pleased to taste and ingest this day of response, knowing spring this time of year is a quick guest, and winter will return.

Evening softens – an invitation inside –


The morning sky is aglow and one crow sits high in the redwood tree cawing appreciation.  Perhaps I, too, caw in awe.

I’m with the words of Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

And as I do, I feel the earth rising to kiss me, all circling round and round.

Morning Sky – Looking East
Softly South


How are we affected by a smile?

Thich Nhat Hanh inspires reflection, exploration and contemplation with  Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.” 

Exhaling, I play with how deeply from within the smile comes. 

How far does it extend?

Is there a bow of connection with in and out?

I’m reminded of the book Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel.

In archery, the hitter and the hit are no longer two opposing objects, but are one reality.

That brings me to Frederick Franck:

While drawing grasses I learn nothing ‘about’ grass, but wake up to the wonder that there is grass at all.

Frederick Franck: I know artists whose medium is life itself, and who express the inexpressible without brush, pencil, chisel or guitar. They neither paint nor dance. Their medium is Being. Whatever their hand touches has increased life…. They are the artists of being alive.

Ah, to be an artist of being alive, and with that,  “breathing in, I calm my body.  Breathing out, I smile.”

Smiles are Everywhere – Commonweal


It’s gray and wet today and I feel myself wrapped in a blanket of fullness, of knowing enough, as though not one more thing can enter.  Of course, that’s this moment.  Perhaps that acknowledgment brings change, or not.

I wonder what these early days in January ask of us, what we ask of them.  Years ago, I signed up for a yoga class with the intention to start the New Year “right”, but then the instructor spoke of this as a fallow time of year, and she kept the lights low, and we moved slowly and mainly rested on our mat.

I’m guided by these words of Rumi: 

“Let yourself be silently drawn by what you love. It will not lead you astray.”

I focus on the word retreat, and settle into the sound and meaning of the word treat, guided so gently by what I love. On the top of the mountain yesterday, I felt held, and focused on two hands, two eyes, two ears, two so we can hold both life and death as passage and guide. I wondered why the two words ears and tears are so close as though we listen more clearly when we allow liquid to flow out of containment into a wider world, a world we share with acknowledgment of love and care.

One son, his wife, and my grandchild have Covid. I feel fragile in knowing all we share, tender in trusting they will be fine, knowing again there is a separation over which there is no control, only letting go.

Heart-shaped abalone shell in the center of the labyrinth

The Healing Power of Nature

As we deal with issues of life and death, I find it essential to turn to nature so today I did.  I share my rainy-day journey through pictures.   I walked the labyrinth listening to the sound of the ocean, birds, and cows and their calves mooing.

Looking up in the rain from the almost top of Mt. Tam
Moss on an Oak on the Mountain
Stinson Beach
View from Commonweal
Daffodils bloom in the rain
Approaching the Labyrinth
The Labyrinth – a place to balance and heal
Offerings in the center of the labyrinth
View from Commonweal in rain – it could be Ireland

The Sky This Morning

I looked up and though it was raining, there was a glow of rose everywhere.

I’m going up the mountain today to be spaciously aware with friends who are making the most challenging and difficult of health decisions right now. May we all be well and gently whole!

The Morning Sky