Day 28: From the Well

I wake and feel myself sifted in layers like cremated ash.

I look out at my Japanese garden.  Two crows rest there.

Today the grief for my brother’s passing is spread throughout me like mulch.  I receive the transformed elements of grief, joy, memories, peace.

Yesterday was a volatile day.  I’m on edge, quick to react with not the bliss I intend.  Frustration is a knife cutting my day into fragments, and maybe that’s okay.  My friend Elaine points out that the well is deep and complex. I consider that as I stand below and look up at stones and moss. Maybe some days I can’t climb up to the light because of the slipperiness of wet moss.

I also say to Elaine that my son Jeff has been my knight in shining armor. She points out that a knight needs a damsel in distress. Ah, yes, and so I have been.

I’m with the cover of my book Airing Out the Fairy Tale which I’m gratified to learn that people love.  I believe it took two months to come up with the image for that cover. I would talk to Patrick and explain what the trip to Nepal meant to me, what it is to go through menopause and midlife crisis.  He, a male, reached to understand and created image after image. We both related to the ones with fire, but when it came to the cover we wanted the mountain, Ama Dablam, mother and son, a sister to Everest, and a woman on a suspension bridge with the wings of birds.

You can check out Patrick at: http://www.jpliphotography.com

You can order Airing Out the Fairy Tale: Trekking through Nepal & Midlife on Amazon or ask your local book store to order it for you. It is an offering to the celebration that is life. It also honors those who’ve passed circling around Mount Everest as they travel on. Life is rich with blessings, balanced on the cultivation of peace, trust, request, reception and ease.

A section of my garden
The image for the cover of the book before the words
Stones from the garden offer stillness and lift

Day 22: Love and Beauty

The memorial for my brother was beautiful and loving. I couldn’t imagine anything more. I wake, rested and grateful. We’ll scatter his ashes today in soft rain.

Out of the blue, my brother began painting. He and another family spent time on Nantucket each summer. Once, leaving on the ferry, a photograph was taken of the lighthouse. Gar painted it and gave it as a birthday present to his friend who brought it to the “celebration” of his life. Gar’s friend then shared a photograph he’d taken when the light hit the lighthouse in the painting making it shine.

My brother is here in all of us, grace, love, laughter, joy, and trust. We laughed and cried, cried and laughed and I feel my brother beautifully celebrated, honored, and allowed to be here as well as exploring new places.

May the lighthouse in each of us shine and receive.

Send and receive light
Honor the slant we climb, the island and waves, the passage we guide

Day 20: Raw

The day has been full, that raw edge of laughter held in sorrow, the vein of gold within the pain. I try to sleep now, feeling like a box of pick-up sticks dropped on the floor. I need to pick up the pieces and put them back together again. There is pain that pierces, and there is gathering. Perhaps it is that gathering of love that allows the full feeling and expression of pain.

I keep saying to myself the words of John Squadra. “When you love, you complete a circle. When you die, the circle remains.” We are a circle gathered as though around a campfire and campfires warm and before they go out, the embers are hot, the flame within the dark.

Tomorrow, well, really today, as I see it’s 1:00 in the morning of a new day, we will celebrate a life, one life, all lives, joy, laughter, tears, pain.

Day 18: Journeying

When I got into my car, my mood shifted. “Road Trip” shimmered through my being. In over forty years of living in the San Francisco Bay area, I’ve driven 280 south from Mill Valley hundreds of times, but today my inner guidance system requested a new pace and route that honored the passing of my brother eighteen days ago. Jeff suggested a stop along the way and I took it.

I’ve always meant to pause at the reservoir but have sped along admiring it from the freeway. Destination has been my focus, but not today. Today I exit the freeway and turning right, not left, travel along Skyline Highway until I realize I’m on the wrong side of the reservoir, so I turn around and parallel the reservoir to the east. I stop for some pictures and then I enter Holy Gates. I’m at the Water Temple Jeff said to visit. Photos will suffice.

The reservoir along 280

Still water and trees

Plugas Water Temple
Grateful for water and Ohlone land

Water running to our sinks

Day 18: Morning Mourning

I went to bed on a bit of a high, woke broken apart like a hammered rock.

Today I start the journey back to CT.  I’ve made it as easy for myself as possible.  I drive down to San Jose today and my son Jeff and I will fly out early Thursday morning to JFK.  My husband Steve is already in NYC for work. Friday morning we’ll take the train to CT and rent a car.  Such a plan, and yet, I feel sick. From here, I can pretend, somehow, that my brother is alive. I did it when my father died. It will be harder there.

The last time I saw him we were blessed with snow, and as the family gathered, we went through almost a cord of wood in a few days.  We were up both early and late, talking, laughing, playing games. We knew it was a goodbye but there he was, and now, well, of course, I’ve written of how I feel him here, in different form, but I feel sick again at all that now comes, and I pause to know and acknowledge I’m here right now, looking out at the ridge as it dances in fog, reflecting tears.

There was a year I traveled.  I’ve written one part of that year of travel in “Airing Out the Fairy Tale,” and then while sitting on a granite cliff on Monhegan Island, I felt how clearly the journey is within.  I came home. I still travel, but I’m aware of my carbon footprint. My home provides all I need and sometimes we are called to leave.

There is a book I love: City by Clifford D. Simak.  It was originally published in 1952 and was prescient about what home might come to mean to some.  The main character’s home has become his castle, run and protected by robots. His best friend dies and he tries to mobilize to go to the funeral.  While he’s debating his ability to do that, and finally overcomes the hesitation, his robot, his companion and friend, has sent the transport away saying he, the man, never leaves.

I do leave, obviously, and I do love travel.  I loved my journey to Zion, Sedona, Tucson, and Phoenix this fall, but this trip is different and this morning there is pain.   I allow the pain to be there, and the tears.

Morning fog on the ridge

Day 18: Guidance

It’s almost May Day.  As a child in Des Moines, Iowa, my family and I made baskets out of paper and filled them with goodies to hang on the door knobs of our neighbors.  I suppose it was a reverse trick or treat, a welcoming of spring and sharing.

I’m entering day 18 of grieving my brother’s passing at the age of sixty-five. Each day seems to present a different stage of grieving, a different step.

Today I am with baskets which leads me to ribs as I prefer to view what some call a rib cage as a rib basket filled with goodies like my heart and lungs.  It expands and contracts with my breath.

That brings me to yaks. I first encountered yaks in 1993 when I was trekking in the Everest region of Nepal. Yaks don’t do well at an altitude below 12,000 feet and prefer to live around 14,000 feet. Their lungs are surrounded by 14 or 15 pairs of ribs compared to 13 for cattle and 12 for humans.

In Nepal it’s said that when people pass away, their soul circles around Everest. I wonder if my brother is doing that now, circling round and round, and that’s why Everest, yaks, and breath come to mind.  

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote that “Every new object, clearly seen, opens up a new organ of perception in us.”  Since his passing, I’m seeing my brother more clearly, more wholly. A new organ of perception opens like a pupil in the eye of the heart, and I’m led by his guidance, a yak still connected to my pack.

Yaks on a suspension bridge in Nepal in 1993

Day 16: Tender

I woke this morning thinking of the power of hugs, deep, meaningful, heart-to-heart hugs.  Yesterday my Sensory Awareness group met at Fort Mason. I received hugs that moved through me, and reverberate now.  

As we gathered and sensed, I began to cough and cough.  Since I couldn’t stop, I left the room to get some water and when I returned I still coughed.   I couldn’t stop and because I knew I didn’t have a cold, I could feel how my throat had tightened to “stuff down” my feelings of grief.  Though I’d cried buckets and received hugs, still there was something coming up from my heart that was caught by a clasp at the throat. Slowly, my throat began to release which is not to say there isn’t still a clamp but it’s softer now, more accepting.  Shaking pours tenderness through pain and grief.

I was sitting with all this at seven this morning when my sister-in-law, my brother’s wife, called. She wanted to share that she’d received a message from a high school best friend of my brother, Bill Belt. He and my brother had spoken in December and Gar made no mention of his illness.  Therefore, Bill was in shock to learn of his death. Gar was best man at Bill’s wedding and still he protected his friend from what he was going through. My brother was clear to the end that he was not a whiner and didn’t want people to feel sorry for him. I honor and respect that and I honor and respect that I was raised in the same way, and  …

What is it now I wish to say?

We no longer live in tribes where men come together to hunt mastodons and women gather berries.  We can share our vulnerability, transition, and fear.

My brother lived a good life and knew it. He had come to accept his death.  He also knew the pain we, our mother, brother and I, endured when our father died in a motorcycle accident in 1969.  My brother’s concern was for those of us still here, and so he and his wife have planned a lovely memorial where we will gather together and comfort each other in the circle of love he leaves behind.

When my sister-in-law called this morning, she sobbed, “Everyone says I am so strong.”  And she is strong and she can honor her softness too.  We can be tender with ourselves. It is okay.

In the book I’m bringing forth I look at the stoicism with which I was raised and which I’ve worked hard to poke a few holes in so more energy and support can pour through.

I’m grateful I have a place to feel the clamp on my throat that is unconscious but is still there, a clamp of protection so I don’t appear weak, but I know now I am both strong and weak, and weak, what a word, no, I am tender. Tenderly, I allow the fullness of feeling both joy and sorrow at one time, the tender place in the heart where both come together to hug and comfort as they meet.

Like a fern frond uncoiling, a snail shell moving, cell by cell, my throat releases and becomes a fountain flowing.

Fern frond unfolding

Vision of Hildegard of Bingen


Yesterday, my beloved friend Anna spoke of and demonstrated what she calls “celestial gravity”. She allowed her arms to rise over her head, in a prayer of reception, connection, openness, and grace.  

This morning these words of David Whyte come my way.

But for now, you are alone

with the transfiguration

and ask no healing for your self,

but look down as if looking through time,

as if looking through a rent veil from the other

side of the question you’ve refused to ask.

And you remember now, that clear stream

of generosity from which you drank,

how as a child your arms could rise,

and your palms turn out to take

the blessing of the world.

From Tobar Phodraic

In RIVER FLOW: New and Selected Poems

© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press

The leaf supported from above and below

I’m also with a little book my dear friend Sandy gave me last week How to Love by  Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. He suggests using hugs as meditation.

He writes, “When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings.”  He continues, “Hugging is a deep practice: you need to be totally present to do it correctly.  When I drink a glass of water, I invest one hundred percent of myself in drinking it. You can train yourself to live every moment of your daily life like that.”

“Before hugging, stand facing each other as you follow your breathing and establish your true presence. Then open your arms and hug your loved one. During the first in-breath and out-breath, become aware that you and your beloved are both alive; with the second in-breath and out-breath, think of where you will both three three-hundred years from now, and with the third in-breath and out-breath be aware of how precious it is that you are both still alive.”

Yesterday I sat by the water of the bay and a gull sat with me. Well, he stood and stayed. I asked if I could take his or her picture, and clearly he/she said yes.

View of Angel Island from Fort Mason

My gull friend and support