Miracles

Sit. Eat. Sit and eat.

Stand. Stand and walk.

Touch, see, hear, talk.

Sleep, wake, again, wake. Live, receive, give, take.

Listen, speak. Gently go your way.

Heat hands with fire, cool them with clay.

Bow, surrender. Rise, shine.

Raise Your Spirit

Autumn comes quickly to the north, casting its line without effort into the deepest parts of the land, making ripples where the summer was, coaxing the world to the threshold of intimacy. The golden glow that suffused so many skins will fade away like a promise made in June, a fling had in July, a perfect peach eaten in August.

Those who turned their faces faithfully toward the sun, flower-like, must now consider the surface of the earth and step in frosty dew. Those who slept naked among the stars and woke in pools of celestial haze must now return to the world and – sadly – cover themselves.

It’s as if the cycle of seasons has me living two lives. One is soft, warm, easy on the flesh, taking a little sting out of gravity. The other is rough, unyielding, ages me faster. I tremble before each change comes, shudder with expectancy of heat and light and what it gives me, or in dread of cold and dark and what it takes.

The border dividing seasons is easy to miss, coming, as it does, in a moment specific to each of us. My summer does not end with yours. Your autumn begins on a different day than mine. So raise your eyes from your screen, your book, your thighs, the floor. Raise your head from the pillow, the noise, the smoke of your days burning.

Raise your spirit up and witness how it feels to be forever in the moment – the moment containing all things, the moment empty of all things, the unmeasured moment of all eternity, the one passing moment of your whole life.

A Dignified Death: My Grandmother and Euthanasia

How striking, how strange, that I was to speak with you for the last time, in the middle of my own birthday party. I thought you were calling to wish me a happy birthday. How childish and small I felt, once I realized – as if I had been struck by lightning or a god-like hammer – that you had called to tell me of your decision, that you had lifted your old-fashioned phone from its cradle and fingered ten numbers on its rotary with a heavy hand, to say goodbye.

You being you, I really should have known. You were always so headstrong, always going somewhere, always with a voracious appetite for experiencing life. You had such an infectious zest for the world with its multitudes of things to do. And I’ve seen the pictures of you as a young woman: knockouts like that only spend so much time at home.

Slipping from my seat on the edge of the bed down to the floor, I could still hear laughter through the walls, through the door I had pushed all the way closed. The festive mood of those who had accepted my invitation mingled with this new immediacy of the moment, as if some enormously simple truth about Life were revealing itself to me, saying: “Remember the light when you’re in the dark, and don’t forget the darkness when you’re in the light.”

The phone grew moist in my grip as you made it quite clear you were doing assisted suicide, and not to argue or try to change your unchangeable mind. After all, things were only going to get worse after dialysis. I sensed a magnetic force pushing us apart, your determination on one side and my reluctance on the other. Our secret farewell words were exchanged, and that was it.  The doctor would come to your apartment and drop the tablet into your martini.  And I, three-thousand miles away, would never get to see you again.

I didn’t cry then, of course. Things needed to be processed, and there was an entire room full of people waiting for me. I looked out the window, took a breath. Making my way slowly back to the party, something inside directed a smile to display itself on my big dumb face. I made my entrance like a finely-trained actor, blowing out the candles with a push of my lungs.

Wind and Rain

The cat sort of fell onto his side and stretched out against the cool ceramic floor, finding relief as he allowed gravity to press him against the tiles checkered blue and white. I could see his little belly rising and falling through the shaggy fluff of his hair, the motor of his purr shifting into second gear as he recovered from a long day spent seeking shade.

Shirtless and glistening with sweat I went back outside, guzzled a cold beer, and inspected the handiwork of my neatly-stacked woodpile with a critical eye. One of the corners had fallen and I’d had to rebuild it. Satisfied, I took a cold shower, changed the bandage on my wounded finger, sat down at my desk and dreamed of patience, the smell of fresh-cut sage, and books whose pages have all been tenderly dog-eared.

Just then came the rain, out of nowhere in grand voluptuous droplets, meeting the roof with an effervescent thrumming, so hard and so fast that I could not finish my note-writing at the desk, but instead leapt to the open door, not able to bear the thought of missing such weather for anything but the deepest sleep. As if I were witnessing a ceremony the wind sprung up, a Babylonian offering a prayer to an oracle. The wind came over the hill on top of that rain, opening its arms and raising its voice, it sprung up and refreshed me, stirring the cat back to life.

I smelled the breath of the world in that wind, a breath of earthy fragrant smoke, a breath like a thousand hanging gardens whose perfume must have inspired the invention of incense long ago.  A door somewhere inside the house creaked and slammed, and gatherings of leaves like colored scarves were disbanded from beneath the trees, shaken loose, and – like me – sent spinning. They fluttered, twittered, sputtered, and then were driven to the ground, one hundred defeated ballerinas, one hundred overpowered belly-dancers.

Mythology

Some say I look like a walrus

with my faded apricot shirt and untrimmed moustache,

but here’s the thing:

never has my mind been filled to such an overflowing

with such an uncountable number of things

flickering through me at an untraceable speed,

equal only in their ranking

as items of stunning insignificance.

In any case,

I’ll meet you at the corner of Vanity and Age,

where the brushstrokes of dawn dress casually

and a lone star stands, unobtrusive,

before taking its last drag off the night

and flicking the roach away

to the opposite curb of the world.

And me, spilling out onto the street with two Mary’s –

one bloody, one virgin, singing:

Goddess Pele, purify me with your volcano fire.

Help me remember to see and embrace

what is before me,

and not search too hard for what isn’t.

Help me to not strain my eyes

trying to look too far ahead,

not stare back behind me for too long,

hypnotized by what has passed,

mesmerized by the highway lines.

May I be like the cat

who practices heliotropism so effectively,

who lounges and, smiling, is ever hopeful

about his next meal.

May I not get so tangled in thought and emotion

that I bind myself.

May I honor desires, dreams, fears.

May I remember things are just what they are,

on either side of any hill,

and that there are no sides,

no hills.

 

A Note On “Awakenings”

My previous post, Awakenings, was written in reflection of my step-dad’s recent passing due to pancreatic cancer.  Paul Hout was a great man.  Throughout my childhood, he and my mom had a tumultuous on-and-off relationship, and were married for a brief time.  In those days, Paul had some serious anger management issues, but he never stopped trying to work through them.  By the time I was beginning high school, he had begun studying Buddhism.  My mom had grown terribly sick with cancer.  We moved in with him again and he became her caretaker, 24 hours a day until she passed away two and a half years later.  It was a tremendous loss for him.

I was blessed enough to be able to visit him a few years ago, and I could tell his heart had found a good measure of peace.  His little shrine with a Buddha statue on it was set up in one corner of his apartment.  He had a loving way about him that felt fresh, as if his heart had opened up profoundly during all the years since I’d last seen him.  I’m grateful I had the opportunity to visit him.  I loved him very much, and I will miss him dearly.