February 3rd, 2011

alan - winter bird

Change -


When I came to Toastmasters I chose a mentor, Suzy.  She was two years older than I, and I found out as I got to know her that she had recently been through treatment for cancer.  She was a wonderful mentor, meeting me for lunch when she felt I needed a little extra advice.  

She has been in the hospital and is now home preparing with her husband for her last days.  She still has a sense of humor joking about what a speech she could give about these last few weeks.

It's hitting me really hard.  I am good about talking about death in the abstract but in the painful present, in the full contemplation of what one does when you are talking about days, weeks, a month, certainly not a year, I am dropped deeply into grief.  My heart aches.   I have read Stephen Levine's book One Year to Live, but I've read it abstractly, I realize, still believing it would never really apply to me.

I met with a friend yesterday.  Her grandson has a rare disease and was not expected to live until he was two.  He has been weakening but this last week was entered in a new drug trial at Stanford.  We looked at pictures of him, a laughing, happy little boy, and his parents, who look exhausted and crushed.  He has a feeding tube and requires constant attention.  I think now of how we aerate the ground to help the roots find a foundation.  Is the purpose of pain to aerate us?  I don't know how people endure what they do, but somehow they do.

I haven't had time to pay much attention to what is happening in Egypt, but I watch this video again:


She would say I shouldn't just be watching, I should be doing something, but this is a day where just carrying the weight of my own heart may be enough.   I feel two things at the same time, that there is a hole in my heart and that it is a heavy weight.  Both, in this moment, are true.

My speech last night was on the Presidio in San Francisco.  The word presidio means "garrisoned fort, military post, Spanish penal settlement", and yet, the area, which was handed over to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1994  has transitioned into a place of peace and education.  

I pointed out that perhaps the peaceful nature of the Ohlone people, who were wiped out with the arrival of the Spanish, is, after 200 years,  coming through.  

May the tyrants fall and the people rise to gather in community and awareness of oneness in what we share.


This poem by Stephen Levine is delivered on Panhala this morning.

Millennium blessing

There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

It does not come in time,
but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

It is an insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

We know we must pass
beyond knowing
and fear the shedding.

But we are pulled upward
through forgotten ghosts
and unexpected angels,

And there is nothing let to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.

~ Stephen Levine ~

(Breaking the Drought)