I skimmed through a stack of old writing today, a mishmash of works-in-progress that hasn't seen any action for quite some time. As it turns out, most of it means little or nothing to me now. These pieces had outlived their usefulness. They were never meant to be finished, I see now. They were stepping stones, the "nurse plants" in my writer's desert. Dismissed! But some pages spoke meaningfully to me. In this one (c. 2002) I was surprised to find a distinct filament between then and now, the planting of a seed...
For 13 years and more I have been writing... By way of it, I arrive here. But it is not an arrival, really, as in a stopping place, a resting place. It is a station. All that writing...: I have been riding a train, and witnessed much on that passage. But the train has stopped here. I have business in this town for which I have as yet no name. And they will not sell a ticket, let me board again, until my work is complete.They tell me there are many here dying of their losses, losing their faith, begging for Divine interventions to save relationships, marriages-- even lives. They tell me this region is rife with competition, jealousy, betrayal, with expectation and its sidekick, disappointment. They tell me: people don't see the silhouettes of trees, don't notice birdsong anymore: the shift in the warble those few weeks before Spring. They say they are counting on me. They say that they have a chance if I give myself to them, if I relay my message. They say, however, that I must put it down, write it. They want the words to last.I say Yes, and step down onto the platform. I have the clothes on my back, along with 40+ years of wits and struggle. But I assume I am sufficiently equipped or they wouldn't have asked me. I tell them I know what I must do, but not how it will be accomplished. They assure me they will never be far; they say, "Ask." I pledge to do so.At that, I find I am walking the main road which climbs out of the station. It reminds me of Cassis, the road from the shore, up to where I'd catch the bus into town. But this is not Cassis. This is not any place I've ever known, and yet the pavement feels familiar to my feet which seem to know their way.The first thing I notice is that I need nothing. That strikes me as odd, especially since I am carrying so little--indeed, I am carrying nothing. But that oddness quickly subsides leaving in its place broad, clear, total satisfaction. I guess that's what to call it. In the absence of need of any kind, what is there but sufficiency? The glass filled to its brim. The sunlight, day after day. Water, every time, without fail, when I open the spigot. Salt and pepper for a richer flavor to the soup. I inhale and exhale this sufficiency, with this sufficiency. The oxygen feeds blood and muscles, organs and tissues, building yet more sufficiency."Building a happy death," I speak aloud, and it sounds right to me, even if I've no idea where it came from, and not much idea what it means.I am building a happy death, for me, and those who hear [themselves in] me. This is all I know.
A Good Day to Die
It was several years ago that I crossed paths with the notion of one day or another being a good day to die. To the woman who shared it with we her students at the time, it was more than a notion. It was her posture, her orientation toward life. Daily, she explained, she would ask herself, "Is this a good day to die?" If the answer was no, it was a her cue that something was out of place, undone, unresolved, neglected in her midst and she would make it her business (her passion, her mission, her delight) to reverse that. There was nothing morbid about her question; it wasn't a question about dying, really, but a question about living. And it inspired me.Walking to the corner today to mail two overdue thank yous, I noticed the change in the autumn landscape in only one day's time. How the the tapestry of color, the profile, the arrangement had progressed. And how different it all looked in this day's gray gloom: soft, sensual, subdued. "What a great day to be alive," I thought. "Like every day, " I thought. "If it's not, there's something to clear." Not a good day? Get clear, I thought. Simple.I dropped the letters in the mailbox and turned toward home. Yes, it's a good day to be alive. But is it a good day to die? I posed, remembering my former teacher's philosophy. The answer came quickly: No. There are beneficiaries to name, there's a will to write, a new client to call, and more. Not for the sake of "getting my house in order" as we say, no. To make it a good day to die is to embrace what matters most to do or be --just, yes, just as if there wouldn't be another day--and to do or be that with relish.For me, today, writing this was part of that. As for the rest... away we go!
PRONOIA is author Rob Brezsny's answer and antidote to the present-day "paranoia," which might otherwise be called the prevailing tendency to focus more on the "bad news" than the good. His book shines a spotlight on "how the Universe conspires to shower us with blessings." A revised and expanded edition has just been released, and in it is an expanded version of his essay "Glory in the Highest." He says the essay grew from three pages to twenty-four "...because I crammed it full of the many shocking facts I ha[ve] discovered about how wrong the conventional wisdom is.""It's not just that we take our everyday miracles for granted," he writes. "The further truth is that we are fantastically lucky and blessed to be alive at this moment of history."How so? Well, here's some of the good news he highlights:
1. The world has become dramatically more peaceful since the end of the Cold War, with steep declines in the numbers of armed conflicts, acts of genocide, weapon sales, and refugees. In fact, our era is the most peaceful time in recorded history.Thanks, Rob, for this generous helping of "pronoia" which surely can't help but widen the way for Love.
2. Crime in the U.S. is at its lowest level since it was first officially tracked. Between 1973 and 2005, the violent crime rate decreased by 56 percent, while crimes against property shrank by 70 percent. The years 2005 and 2006 brought a small increase in violent crimes, but by 2008, the rate had fallen even lower than it was in 2005.
3. After rising steadily since the beginning of time, the number of people in the world living in absolute poverty has fallen by nearly one-third in less than three decades.
4. A Nobel prize-winning economic historian has shown that those of us alive today are far hardier and healthier and smarter than our ancestors, even those of 150 years ago. We get sick less, overcome the sickness we do suffer from better, and live longer. Even our internal organs are formed better.
5. Torture is no longer a commonplace feature of the justice system, as it was in many places of the world for centuries.
6. The rate of child mortality in the developing world has dropped precipitously, while literacy is increasing steadily.
7. Life expectancy is rising steadily. People live more than 50% longer than they did a century ago. Many scientists believe there is no absolute limit to the human life span, and are working hard to extend it.
Rainbow, Pot of Gold
It would've been so easy to take the car. I had only a few precious hours left of the day--my birthday--
and lots of calls to make: thank yous and hellos to friends who had acknowledged the occasion. I could dash over, pick up this one piece of Registered mail at the P.O., maybe return videos at the library, then be back home in a flash. But as I approached the car all in a rush, I stopped. “It’s beautiful out here,” I noticed all of a sudden. “I could walk.”I absolutely could walk, and preferred to, actually. Dublin had gotten me walking, and I haven't stopped since. It's continued to be my first choice when setting out for an errand, with the bicycle a close second. The car has sat in the driveway a lot, which pleases me for many reasons. Yes, of course: it would be better to walk. But was there time? I realized the 5 o'clock hour was quickly closing in. I went back inside to check: 4:25. With a brisk pace, I could make it. Great!
Off I went in my new Merrells—my latest investment in the walking life. They would allow me the clip I needed. And all was well until I spotted a mailman at his drop box.
Oh no, I thought. Delivery of the package had been attempted that very day; it may still be out on the route, I realized. I pulled out my claim ticket to read it and why exactly hadn’t I read it completely before now? In all my hurry and determination to receive what I thought could be a birthday surprise, it seemed I might've set out on a fool’s errand.
“Pick up after 10/14,” the carrier had noted. Nuts.I retraced a few steps and approached the Postman. “Excuse me,” I started, then explained my concern.“It depends,” he said. “If the carrier’s working oovertime, then he’s still out on the route. If not, it should be back. Do you want me to call and ask?” he said, reaching for his phone.If his accent hadn’t tipped me off, the kind generosity of his offer surely would have.“What part of Ireland are you from?” I asked with a smile.
“Tipperary,” he replied.
"I'm just back from a year in Ireland," I said. "Never made it to Tipperary," I said, but told him where I had been."Ooh, but ye must've passed through on your way to Kerry," he said, and I remembered that indeed I had. Our conversation—visit, really—unfolded from there.
“I fell in love with your country,” I told him.“People are a bit moore oopen, aren’t they?”
Yes, I thought. Like this, like you. I was reminded of the unique quality to the exchanges I had had abroad; they were more...what? More human? More connected? All I know is they possessed a sparkle not common to my Boston encounters.
And here it was again. Humanity greeting humanity eye to eye with a genuine warmth and care exchanged in the space between us. I loved that. I still do.
“I'm Kathryn,” I said, extending my hand.“John Ryan,” he smiled, returning a hearty handshake.
"Pleased to meet you," I said, and truly I was.John Ryan from Tipperary, I thought smiling broadly as after we'd parted I continued into town. In the end I had declined his generous offer in favor of taking my chances. I was so happy to be walking. I was so happy I did not cheat myself of this gift-of-an encounter. I could have driven I thought, eyeing the backup of cars in five-o’clock traffic: hah! And only then did it occur to me sans regret that my moments with John Ryan might have cost me that day's chance at collecting the parcel.
On one hand, it’s such a small thing, a chance encounter with an Irish mailman 15 years in the States, talk of his mother who had just passed on, his sister who still lives there, my father’s death two years ago. It is a small and simple thing, I suppose: one, brief conversation of no great purpose or consequence. One could argue it was nothing, and I might be persuaded of that. I am more inclined to think it was everything. What matters more, really, than a true human encounter, heart to heart, spirit to spirit, and the upliftment it engenders? Life arises by way of such moments, or does not.I did make it to the P.O. in time, and despite a long queue, was able to claim my package: the Bat Mitzvah gift for my niece which for two weeks had been making its way to me from Israel--a delightful surprise. I had thought the Israeli-made pendant would ship from a U.S. distributor. Rainbow, pot of gold: the riches kept coming, is how it felt. I glowed golden, alight with the day's treasures, all the way home.
Love Strikes Again
Normally I aim toward variation when illus-
trating a long entry here. I try to mix colors, textures, content--all the while maintaining some relationship with the text. Sometimes I try multiple images before finding ones that fit. What makes one fit as opposed to another I can't always say, but I wait for the intuitive Yes! and know it when it comes. When I posted Love and Forgiveness earlier this month, I couldn't help but notice the similarity between the images: lots of blues and greens. Curious, I thought. That's heart and throat, if I'm not mistaken. I was thinking of the colors associated with the chakras. I looked up chakras and sure enough, I was right. I could hardly believe my eyes, however, when I read further:
"Love strikes again!" I thought. Those colors were indeed the perfect match for what I had written, though I hadn't chosen them consciously. Love chose them for me--and well! I marveled at this as I shut down the computer for the night. I know that Love knows Its way. I know that listening and following It never steers me wrong. But to see such precision, such elegance in such graceful motion is still remarkable to me. May it always be so!
BLUE - throat. The ability to verbalize. Expressing truth through the power of the spoken word.
GREEN - heart. Soul/heart consciousness. Expressing love in action.
New Friends Along the Freeway
Abundant thanks and love to all who stopped by Love's Freeway over Open Studio weekend, as well as those who supported in spirit. It was a great day for Love: what a wonderful infusion! It's such a pleasure to see so many seeds of Love go off into the world, by way of your purchases. And what a great gift it is to see more clearly and deeply into what I am doing and being by way of the mirror of others' perceptions and responses: thank you for offering them so generously!
I've posted a photo album of the event, in case you missed it--or want to revisit the moments: enjoy! I will also be featuring some of the new work here on Love's Freeway in the weeks to come--stay tuned. And don't forget that the Gift Shop is always open to serve you whenever you are looking for that unique something for that special someone.
Love and Forgiveness
It's a marvel to me how you really cannot give Love away. I love that about Love. Try as you might, it comes right back to you. Love does, that is, and by Love I don't mean gestures made out of obligation or with an investment in a return on them. In fact, I'm not talking about any small-l love that goes off with strings attached to it. I am talking about Love freely given--that is to say, Love given with Love.Why does it come right back? It comes right back because circulation is circulation; flow is flow, and there's no stopping it. We are that flow unless we step in and inhibit it.I think of the cycle of photosynthesis. Rain, vegetation, transpira-
tion. Lakes, rivers; mountains, valleys. Ice, snow, clouds and fog. And round and round we go. However separate we might seem from such cycles inasmuch as we can observe them, we are not. Life force is life force, and we are particles of that one force. Not a reflection of it, not analogous to it, but IT itself.So giving without strings attached, giving freely, means inevitably that I will be given to, at least as abundantly as I have given. This is not hocus pocus, any more than rain or rivers or mists are hocus pocus. It's just the way the cycle works. It is a cycle, after all: circulation is circulation; flow is flow.Still, when my friend relates to me the story of giving away her ex's leather jacket which she had been storing for several years, I balk. "Ohh... you could've sold it on Ebay, I'm sure," I want to say. Generous to a fault, I am thinking. I know her hours just got cut back at work. She's feeling squeezed, thinking of taking on a roommate. I know she could use the money. That jacket could've paid some bills, is how I see it, in a flash. But the story continues."I think this'll fit you perfectly," she had told her neighbor, and sure enough, it did. Whereupon her neighbor made an offering of her own."Come over here," said the neighbor, inviting my friend to a table at her yard sale in progress. "Here," she says. "I know you liked this lamp." She proceeded to offer a beautiful light fixture that my friend had once admired. "It's yours if you want it."She did want it, and happily took it home. And on and on it goes, because I am inspired by the story, and so I am moved to share it, this graceful reminder of how a loving gestures can't help but inspire another loving gesture. The jacket had cost my friend nothing, of course. And here she was "ahead" one lighting fixture: not a bad deal! But the ingredients of the swap aren't half as important as the qualities of it, by my estimation. My friend's gesture had been pure: unadorned, unadulterated, unattached. It was just plain thoughtful. She had something that she thought this other woman could use and enjoy. It was as natural as breathing for her to hand it over, expecting (needless to say) nothing in return. Her neighbor was moved by that purity, I'm sure. Et voila.It's beautiful, yes? How unstoppable Love is when we don't block Its way.And I do believe it was my friend's story, its effect on me, that helped spawn an insight in me sometime later. Out of the blue, it dawned on me that forgiveness is only ever of oneself, and that it only seems necessary or called for as long as we think there is something to forgive. It occurred to me, clear as day, that the so-called offenses of my father, mother, friend, lover, were or are but parts of myself that I had or have yet to absorb, accept or release. These behaviors or actions of the other that I judge as offenses stand out, it occurs to me now, not unlike colors occur to the eye as colors. A blue jay or blue flower is blue to the eye because it reflects (rejects, if you will) only blue light, where it absorbs all other light, all the other wavelengths in the spectrum. We don't see orange or red on the bird or the flower because they are absorbed before we can even detect their presence.Imagine! How wonderful it is then when another gives the gift of showing us what we have not been able or ready to absorb.Now I come full circle. There really isn't of course an "other" who shows this to us. You who has "done me wrong" are not you at all, really, so much as a part of me--of Self--seeking to come to terms with itself. You are so to speak an animation of a part of myself that I have up to now rejected or resisted or somehow tried to hold away from myself. The "other" is a gift, to say the least: a blessed, willing conveyance for integration.I see: these so-called annoyances or offenses don't come to assault me; rather, they come to assist me. Nor do they befall me, but rather, come at my own bidding. As long as I am fractured in any way, I am not fully integrated, and consequently I am prey to the belief that I am something other than whole, complete. In effect, I ask to be "wronged" so that I can be "made right" again. So that I might be returned to my original, perfect condition.The lover, the brother, the mother: they are not to be forgiven; they are to be thanked, appreciated--or not, of course. I can resist, for sure. I can spit and flail, blame, even cast out the "other." But here's the rub: it's not they that I reject, but myself. So as long as I resist, I prolong my own estrangement of self from Self. I am offender and offended both--puppet and puppeteer. Whatever I choose, I have myself to either blame or to thank. And should I persist, consciously or not, in my estrangement, there is in fact no fault, no blame. I am but responsible. Ideally I claim responsibility, that grace, and give it to myself.