February 6th, 2006

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Good Morning!!

This morning I wake and notice the little crescent moons at the base of my nails, and, I find that exciting, to consider that I am carrying these little moons around with me all the time, and, then, I realize they are smiles. I can look down at my thumb and see a little upside-down smile looking up at me. I like it. I remember lying on my back and hearing Charlotte Selver say the words, "Feel your knees as smiles, your cells as smiles." I love that jubilation in me. Lately, I've been feeling like I have no knees. There is no support there, and yet, I think it is just a re-arranging of my bones, as into a couch and pillows. I think my body is re-arranging into even more smiles. I love the smile of the Buddha, so soft, and not too much.
Equanimity. My chalice for the day.
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Homage today for my mother!

The day after we returned from Connecticut after my mother's death, I knew I needed to go to Pierce Point, the piece of land that juts out on the Pacific Plate, offering unbelievable views of the ocean and Tomales Bay at the same time. Imagine walking between the ocean and the bay on the most beautiful, exquisite land. That's Pierce Point. I love it. The Tule Elk live there. I knew that was where my mother would be as she translated from this life to another.

Tomales Bay divides two tectonic plates, the American and the Pacific. The San Andreas fault line runs down the middle of Tomales Bay. One day Los Angeles will be next to San Francisco as it creeps a few inches north each year. Now, that will be something to see!

I went to Pierce Point four times after her death, once a week for a month, once with Jeff, once with Joyce, once with Ellen, and once alone. This poem came from one of those times. It makes sense to me. I hope there is something here for  you.



                                                                        pierce point   


                                                    my mother dies

                                              I cross to this land mass

                                                        each week

                                                  wanting connection

                                                    with the other side

                                         I feel her here with the Tule Elk

                                                Tomales Bay -  ocean waves -

                                                          her death a gentle quake-

                                                                   birds sang as she died


                                                                            as she passed -


                                      am I a fawn


                                      the heart of a flute,

                                      holes played by the wind,


                                      with grief, a shoe in which I step

                                      and sail,

                                      like Winkin’, Blinkin’ and Nod,


                                      fairy tails,

                                      seep, weep, sleep - the tale is old
                                                    in our wake


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Morning Thoughts -

Jane mentions that she is teamed up to do the Riddle Rally in Chinatown this next weekend.  I am reminded of the past.


 There was a time
when a friend and I created,
“The Soon to be World Famous, Dad’s Day Really Rad Rhyming Road Rally!”
You never heard of it?
Well, I did say, soon to be,
and there are many Dad’s days left..
The last time it was presented,
someone pointed out that driving cars unnecessarily
was not necessarily environmentally aware,
and so, then, we considered, a Dad’s Day,
Really Rad Rhyming Walking Rally,
but that, seemed a little harder to cohere,
so we have missed a few years,
of celebrating dads with a destination,
figured out with the help of their kids.
Those kids, grown now,  loved tossing
whipped creams pies
into the faces of their dads.
We’d give each child a can of whipped cream,
and they’d spray those dads,
until they were creamily clad.
The dads loved it, except for one, who was not sure
about the stickiness of cream and pie,
and learned to bring a change
of clothes. 
I still have the folder, Rally Ho!
and I’m wondering if this year needs a revival
of good old-fashioned soul-revving and reviving hums,
and cream-covered faces, tummies, and bums. 



Memory Re-Earned

I am feeling a need to go through my past,
like a treasure chest filled with gold and pearls,
knowing what is there,
fingered again,
with the maturity of age,
an age richly colored,
with legs,
like the best
full servings,
of delicacy and strength -
red wine -
ironed blood -
the love
of work
and play -
all one now, gather in me,
the fullness of night and day.  



I am learning to witness my life, witness now, as it unfolds, and change is felt moment by moment in my bones.  I want to bring back that little girl, the one of three or four, who was so clear in who she was and what she knew.  I was mature and a child, at one with love, work and play.  There was no differentiation.  I think school is what brings in differentiation with work-time, recess time, time divided into compartments of judgment, as we are judged on height,  and on the playground as to what we can do.  I started school at four, and then, turned five in October.  Children, today, are in structured environments much earlier.  What does that do, I wonder.  This morning I was thinking of the book, The Greatest Generation, by Tom Brokaw.  I think he captured the people of that time very well, and watching The Rolling Stones, I thought of my generation, and now, there are newer ones following along.  We know our peer group affects us, and yet, for each one of us isn’t there that sturdy stance of the child who stands on his or her own legs, and sees and sees from a core, a core that knows so much more than any one of us looking at a child of three or four would believe.


Remember that child today, standing, looking, perceiving with eyes not divided, but seeing, united,  as one.  

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I saw Keira Knightly interviewed on Jon Stewart.  It seems she has worked as an actress most of her life.  He kept trying to act like she had missed something with all of her work, like wouldn’t she rather be partying.  She looked at him with a withering glance, like don’t you get it.  Clearly, she enjoys her work.  I wondered at the time, and again, now, why in this country “work” is considered a bad word.  Again, I go back to school.  

One of the oncology nurses likes to check out what each person brings to read during chemo.  When he saw I had a book of poems, he said he wished he could read poems but he can’t.  He then proceeded to tell me of a complex tradition of Icelandic poems, and, then, he spoke of Shakespeare and how any love he might have had there was destroyed by having to match passages with speakers in school.  He said poems in school were analyzed with no attempt to convey that they were about real people, meaning, feelings.  He had all this to say, and then, again lamented that he didn’t know poetry, that it had been taken from him, and he was too old to return.  

I might have said I was listening to a poem, the oral tradition revived, the meaning, the heart, the feelings inside.

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Jane's Poem for Today!!

Jane feels this poem is "still calling out for something."   I place it here, because I feel that is the wind, calling out, blowing us here and there, and because I like what to Jane sometimes feels incomplete.  I like that space for me.  I feel complete in her poem. 

Today¹s wind spent the night at sea.

It croons of trade and the horse latitudes.

Murmurs in baffling languages.

The trees along the ridge bend to listen.

Even though the sky is cleared of clouds.

My mysteries remain.

I see my course is changing.

Before the letting go, the love.

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Poem for today!


Reteaching my bones about myself,
going back to the child of 3 or 4,
so sure of what she knew -
so clear on what the pocket needed,
a hankie tucked inside,
a place to warm and open,
where nothing seeks to hide
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Jim Wallis of Sojourners!

When I first met Bonhoeffer

by Jim Wallis

When I first met Dietrich Bonhoeffer, through reading his books as a young seminarian, he explained the world of faith to me. This young German theologian who was executed by the Nazis for his opposition to Hitler helped me to understand the difficult religious experiences I had known in America.

I had just come back to Jesus after rejecting my childhood faith and joining the student movements of my generation when I discovered for the first time the Sermon on the Mount as the manifesto for a whole new order called the reign of God. I discovered Matthew 25: "As you have done to the least of these, you have done to me."

The evangelical Christian world I had grown up in talked incessantly about Christ but never paid any attention to the things that Jesus taught. Salvation became an intellectual assent to a concept. "Jesus died for your sins and if you accept that fact you will go to heaven," said the evangelists of my childhood. When it came to the big issues that cropped up for me as a teenager - racism, poverty, and war - I was told explicitly that Christianity had nothing to do with them: they were political, and our faith was personal. On those great social issues, the Christians I knew believed and acted just like everybody else I knew - like white people on racism, like affluent people on poverty, and like patriotic Americans on war.

Then I read Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship, which relied heavily on the beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount and the idea that our treatment of the oppressed was a test of faith. Believing in Jesus was not enough, said Bonhoeffer. We were called to obey his words, to live by what Jesus said, to show our allegiance to the reign of God, which had broken into the world in Christ. Bonhoeffer warned of the "cheap grace" that promotes belief without obedience. He spoke of "costly discipleship" and asked how the grace that came at the tremendous cost of the cross could require so little of us. "Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship," he said, "and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth."

At the time, I had just experienced a secular student movement that had lost its way. Without any spiritual or moral depth, protest often turned to bitterness, cynicism, or despair. Finding Jesus again, after years of alienation from the churches, reenergized my young social conscience and provided a basis for both my personal life and my activist vision. Here again Bonhoeffer showed the way, by providing the deep connection between spirituality and moral leadership, religion and public life, faith and politics. Here was a man of prayer who became a man of action - precisely because of his faith.

Bonhoeffer will appeal today to all those who are hungry for spirituality. But his was not the soft New-Age variety that only focuses on inner feelings and personal enlightenment. Rather, it was Bonhoeffer's spirituality that made him so politically subversive. And it was always his deepening spiritual journey that animated his struggle for justice.

Bonhoeffer will appeal today to all who are drawn to Jesus Christ, because at the heart of everything Bonhoeffer believed and did was the centrality of Christ. The liberal habit of diminishing the divinity of Christ or dismissing his incarnation, cross, and resurrection had no appeal for Bonhoeffer. But his orthodoxy has demanding implications for the believer's life in the world. He refused to sentimentalize Jesus, presenting him as the fully human Son of God who brings about a new order of things.

During a stint at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Bonhoeffer's response to theological liberalism was tepid, but he became inspired by his involvement with the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Meeting the black church in America showed the young Bonhoeffer again that a real Christ was critical of the majority culture.

Bonhoeffer will appeal today to all those who love the church and long for its renewal. But they won't find in Bonhoeffer somebody who was primarily concerned with new techniques for more contemporary worship, management models for effective church growth, or culturally relevant ways to appeal to the suburban seekers. Bonhoeffer could not imagine the life of solitary discipleship apart from the community of believers. But he would not tolerate the communal life of the church being more conformed to the world than being a prophetic witness to it.

And, of course, Bonhoeffer appeals today to all those who seek to join religion and public life, faith and politics. Because he doesn't fit neatly into the categories of left and right, and liberal and conservative, Bonhoeffer can speak to Democrats trying to get religion, to Republicans who want a broader approach than hot-button social issues, and to people who are unhappy with our contemporary political options. He was drawn to the nonviolence of Jesus and, like Martin Luther King Jr., was planning to visit Gandhi in India to learn more about nonviolent resistance. Like King, he was killed before he could make the trip. But Bonhoeffer's pacifism gave way to what he saw as the overriding need to confront the massive evil of Nazism by participating in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Yet, according to F. Burton Nelson and Geffrey Kelly, in their book The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he believed that violence was "still a denial of the gospel teachings of Jesus," and his decision to join the conspiracy against Hitler was accompanied by "ambiguity, sin, and guilt" that were only expiated by a reliance on Christ who "takes on the guilt of sinners, and extends the forgiveness of his Father God to those sinners." That decision, which cost him his life, demonstrates Bonhoeffer's profound wrestling with the always-difficult questions of how faith is to be applied to a world of often imperfect choices.

Excerpted from Jim Wallis' introduction to A Year With Dietrich Bonhoeffer, published by Harper San Francisco, 2006.

To find out more about seeing the documentary film on Bohoeffer, check out www.journeyfilms.com, www.bonhoeffer.com, or www.pbs.org/bonhoeffer.

There is a special screening in San Francisco at Grace Cathedral Feb. 15, 7 p.m. $10 at the door.
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Poem by W. S. Merwin!!

To the Dust of the Road by W. S. Merwin

And in the morning you are up again
with the way leading through you for a while
longer if the wind is motionless when
the cars reach where the asphalt ends a mile
or so below the main road and the wave
you rise into is different each time
and you are one with it until you have
made your way up to the top of your climb
and brightened in that moment of that day
and then you turn as when you rose before
in fire or wind from the ends of the earth
to pause here and you seem to drift away
on into nothing to lie down once more
until another breath brings you to birth.
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Checking in -

Today is a fulfilling day. I went for my free massage through the cancer center, and was a bit put off to hear a woman on the phone "selling" her services, and the packaging of what she provides for cancer patients. Listening, it felt like a business, though it is set up as a non-profit, and I understand a non-profit is a business, but I felt like a commodity, a "cancer patient". I had written a check on Saturday to this organization, because I do appreciate what they do, and, I think there is a way to talk about human beings outside the business format, especially when they are sitting there listening. I am not a commodity, though I realize there is big money on what is being done to, and for, me.

And so, the massage. I explained to him about the aches and pains, which are natural with chemo, of course, and, even knowing that, it is hard to feel what a chemo treatment does to me. This was my third massage, so I had the first one after a chemo treatment, and felt the tension, and then, I had another one before the next chemo treatment, and I felt the difference, , and here I am again after a chemo treatment. I am shockingly held. There was some softening in the protection, though not evenly, and yet, I did note how I feel young and old at the same time, and how that possibility is probably always available for each one of us. As a child, I felt mature. Now, at times, I feel like a child. I am all at one time. I felt that clearly today. I walked out in an expanded state, and stopped at Book Passage to get a snack before the dentist, and there I was confronted with shocking news.

Barnes and Noble is planning to open up a store three times the size of the one they currently have across the freeway, but it will be within walking distance of Book Passage and it will be located at the mall. It must be going in where the Good Guys went out of business at Corte Madera Town Center. It seems Town Center had discussed it with Book Passage but not "in good faith." There is a meeting tomorrow night. Here are some important statistics from Bay Area Business Woman. The article is by Lisa Wilhelm.

"A Civic Economics 2002 study showed that Big Box super bookstores return $13.00 to the local economy for every $100.00 of books sold. Local bookstores return $45.00. Do the math: on $10 million in book sales, Barnes & Noble would return 1.3 million; Book Passage 4.5 million, a 346 higher return."

Lisa Wilhelm continues, "Big Box super bookstores are predatory loss leaders with deep pockets, steep discount pricing power, and sweet publisher-promotion allowances. Their successful growth formula is simple: steal sales from local booksellers and wait for them to go out of business. The strategy works. Today, only 1700 local U.S. bookstores with just a 10 percent share of the book sales market remain (down from 84 percent in 1972.) Almost three quarters operate in the red or at a barely marginal profit."

I will add that Amazon is responsible for some of this problem, but, still Book Passage has held on. They have every major figure in the world today coming through to promote their book. They are an asset to the community that must not disappear. I bought a book today to assure myself that will not happen. I accept the sacrifice. : )

So, I go to the dentist, where I am well-greeted and hugged. My dentist hugs me and I am able to say that this whole thing is a gift, and she understands. She married a wonderful man, and they wanted children, but were unable to have them. I knew that, but not, in this way. She told me that she was told infertility is a gift, and it has turned out to be so, for she and her husband appreciate life in a whole new way. I looked into her eyes, and saw a side of her I had not seen. I knew she was disappointed when she found out they could not have children, but I never realized the depth of it, or that she had found a gift in infertility. How deeply she let me see.

For me, chemo is nothing compared to not being able to have had Jeff and Chris, and, I understand what she means. All of this brings us closer, deeper to understanding the majesty and preciousness of being here, of absolutely every precious moment here.

I write this, knowing that one of the chemo lessons is about change. Nothing ever repeats. Nothing stays the same, and yet, I remember when Book Passage went in. I was in my Terwilliger Nature Guide training, and there was such enthusiasm among the owners about this new building area and book store. The books seem hand-picked. It is that kind of place. When I go to Barnes & Noble, it seems to be all about best sellers. None of the local poets and writers are there. They are well-featured at Book Passage. The Marin Poetry Anthology hangs out in vivid display at the end of an aisle at Book Passage. I guess I am a bit upset, and struggling in my acknowledgement of change. I have watched one after another of the local independent book stores go out of business. I felt each one as a painful loss. I made the assumption Book Passage was so well-connected, it was a given, but I don't know if it can withstand this. But, hey, I'm making it through chemo. Come on Book Passage and your patrons. Dump Barnes & Noble where it doesn't want to go. According to Lisa Wilhelm, "Barnes & Noble traded at about 20.5 estimated earnings per share." They don't need Book Passage, and we do!
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The book I bought -

The book I bought today is "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion. It is about living through a year where her husband dies of a heart attack, and her daughter is in a coma, comes out of it and then has six hours of brain surgery for a massive hematoma. Talk about a cheery read. I am looking for meaning, though, and it felt just right for today.

After Joan Didion's mother died, a friend sent her these words. The death of a parent "despite our preparation, indeed, despite our age, dislodges things deep in us, sets off reactions that surprise us and that may cut free memories and feelings that we had thought gone to ground long ago. We might, in that indeterminate period they call mourning, be in a submarine, silent on the ocean's bed, aware of the depth charges, now near and now far, buffeting us with recollections."

Yes, I understand.

Then, Joan Didion speaks of grief. "Grief is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life. Virtually everyone who has ever experienced grief mentions this phenomenon of "waves." Eric Lindemann, who was chief of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in the 1940's and interviewed many family members of those killed in the 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire, defined the phenomenon with absolutely specificity in a famous 1944 study: "sensations of somatic distress occurring in waves lasting from twenty minutes to an hour at a time, a feeling of tightness in the throat, choking with shortness of breath, need for sighing, and an empty feeling in the abdomen, lack of muscular power, and an intense subjective distress described as tension or mental pain."

I read this, and consider. When those "waves" go through me, is my body grieving? Is this what I am experiencing? Grief for all that is lost, and though I know, in my head, the gift of all I am receiving, it is true that my fast growing cells are killed. Are not the slower ones grieving, the ones left here longer, wondering where their friends and neighbors have gone?

And here, I might offer the comfort of Pearl Buck, her words on death, as a transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, and I hope that is so. I do drink tons of fluids to flush them out with a punch, that might whip them up, with wings, to the sky, but I think they are dying, and I see why I sometimes sigh, oh, my, this is a tremendous amount to understand, and I continue to welcome the gift of love, extension, connection, and care.
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Poem by Galway Kinnell!

Saint Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words, and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats in the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Galway Kinnell