February 12th, 2006

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Thoughts -

Steve and I walked down to Starbucks this morning.  The white blossoms of the plum tree stood out against a blue and pink striped sky.  Oh, my!!   Later, the sun popped up.  It doesn’t get better than that!

The motorcyclists were gathered for the Sunday morning ride.  This may be the first dry Sunday of the year.   The California Highway Patrol was there too.  The motorcyclists are resplendent in their leathers,  and fancy helmets.  There is a feel that aliens have landed, until they speak.  Each shiny, clean motorcycle is “sweet.”  The CHP is there, too, with a car and  a motorcycle.  Everyone drinks coffee together, and then, the game begins.  The motorcycles take off sedately.  It could be a funeral procession.  No one is leaned over, yet!  There is only a low hum of bees heading out Highway One to the Station House Coffee in Point Reyes Station, or beyond to the bakery in Tomales, or further north, and east, and some return the way they came, on Highway One.  

I would like to talk about death.  It seems some wonder when I speak so often about death.  I am actually quite joyful as I am coming to an acceptance, or perhaps, understanding of the cycle of life and death in which we all live.  It is like the water cycle, constantly in motion.  Right now, it is so obvious to me because I feel cells dying, observing, participating, hanging out, growing, renewing.  As I said to my cousin this morning, I am like all the seasons at one time.  I am budding, growing, losing leaves, and dormant all at once.  How great is that!!  And we all are in seasonal change, both long-term, and short, but I am blessed to be in an artificial push of spring, summer, fall, and winter.  I am in fast motion, whirring through the seasons.  Wow!!   I am a hot-house flower, whippling through bloom after bloom.  I am the sea, resplendent with tides.  Someone asked me yesterday if my oncologist had prescribed anti-depressants.  I said no, that she feels a person would be nuts not to feel depressed at times with this.  I feel it, and away it goes, swooshes out with a glide.

I am also feeling my mother close, as I honor the anniversary of her death.  I think of my son Chris, who lost this year his dear friend Ken, then, my mother, then, a co-worker, and then, his beloved first grade teacher.   I did not have so much death in my life at his age.  Sometimes, I feel like I lived like the Buddha before he went through the palace gates.  I lost my father when I was 19, but my life has been mainly blessed with ease-filled grace.  I did not have much confrontation with death.  This experience has been interesting to navigate, as I realize we are a flowing river with death holding up our sides.   Could we appreciate each sunrise in the same way if we were immortal?  I am reminded now of a poem by A. E. Housman.


                        Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now


                        Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

                        Is hung with bloom along the bough,

                        And stands above the woodland ride

                        Wearing white for Eastertide.


                        Now, of my threescore years and ten,

                        Twenty will not come again,

                        And take from seventy years a score,

                        It only leaves me fifty more.


                        And since to look at things in bloom

                        Fifty springs are little room,

                        About the woodlands I will go

                        To see the cherry hung with snow.

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For my mother today -

My mother loved the song Lara's Theme from the movie Doctor Zhivago.  I was reading Boris Pasternak's book "Doctor Zhivago" last night.  Yura is speaking to someone who fears she is dying.  She wants to know his thoughts on "death, the survival of consciousness, faith in resurrection...."   He has the following to say. 

           “Resurrection.  In the crude form in which it is preached to console the weak, it is alien to me.  I have always understood Christ’s words about the living and the dead in a different sense.  Where could you find room for all these hordes of people accumulated over thousands of years?  The universe isn’t big enough for them; God, the good, and meaningful purpose would be crowded out. They’d be crushed by those throngs greedy merely for the animal life.

      But all the time, life, one, immense, identical throughout its innumerable combinations and transformations, fills the universe and is continually reborn.  You are anxious about whether you will rise from the dead or not, but you rose from the dead when you were born and you didn’t notice it. 

     Will you feel pain?  Do the tissues feel their disintegration?  In other words, what will happen to your consciousness?  But what is consciousness?  Let’s see.  A conscious attempt to fall asleep is sure to produce insomnia, to try to be conscious of one’s own digestion is a sure way to upset the stomach.  Consciousness is a poison when we apply it to ourselves.  Consciousness is a light directed outward, it lights up the way ahead of us so that we don’t stumble.  It’s like the headlights on a locomotive - turn them inward and you’d have a crash.

      So what will happen to your consciousness?  Your consciousness, yours, not anyone else's?  Well, what are you?  There’s the point.  Let’s try to find out.  What is it about you that you have always known as yourself?  Your kidneys?  Your liver? Your blood vessels?  No.  However far back you go in your memory, it is always in some external, active manifestation of yourself that you come across your identity - in the work of your hands, in your family, in other people. And now listen carefully. You in others - this is your soul.  This is what you are.  This is what your consciousness has breathed and lived on and enjoyed throughout your life - your soul, your immortality, your life in others.  And what now?  You have always been in others and you will remain in others.  And what does it matter to you if later on that is called your memory? This will be you - the you that enters the future and becomes a part of it.

       And now one last point.  There is nothing to fear. There is no such thing as death.  Death has nothing to do with us.  But you said something about being talented - that it makes one different.  Now, that does have something to do with us.  And talent in the highest and broadest sense means talent for life.

     There will be no death, says St. John.  His reasoning is quite simple. There will be no death because the past is over; that’s almost like saying there will be no death because it is already done with, it’s old and we are bored with it.  What we need is something new, and that new thing is life eternal.”

He then touches her head, and tells her to "Go to sleep."  She sleeps, and wakes refreshed, and so, we heal. 
Healing means wholeness, and wholeness is my goal, acceptance of the wondrous cycling of life and death, the ferris wheel on which we lift and drop and swing. 
A glorious day to you.  I'm out to Point Reyes, to look at Heart's Desire Beach with Jeff and Jan, as a possible wedding spot for them.  Yay!!   A September wedding is their goal.  May it be so!

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Evening thoughts -

The drive to Point Reyes was astonishingly beautiful. I haven't been out there since all this happened, and I forget how absolutely unbelievable it is to go up over the mountain, down to the ocean, along the lagoon, past the hills, and, then, open up to Tomales Bay. We ate at Station House Cafe, which since it changed hands, has gone sadly downhill. Still it was lovely to sit in the garden, and eat food that once upon a time enjoyed the moving vibration of heat. Heart's Desire is exquisite as anyone who has been there knows, but, perhaps, not quite right for a wedding, but we will see. We went through a multitude of possibilities today. There are so many ways to dream.

For myself, I am coming to feel that as I have become more comfortable with death, I am more aware of life. The two balance each other on a see-saw of awareness for me. In feeling more acceptance of death, I am feeling more life.

The full moon has risen, and the clouds are flowing veils.
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Evening -

Tonight I read of the blizzard in New York, and see the pictures of sledding and snow. Friday, I saw cormorants sitting in a line, with some on a hierarchy of poles. I watched their black shapes as each one left their perch, and dived. I picture their blackness, even as I image the whiteness of snow in day, and as the full moon brightens it. How rich each of our days and nights, west coast, east coast, and northern hemisphere and south, where spring and fall now exchange!