Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Because It Was Her Favorite Christmas Song, Because It Was The Prayer That Gave Her Strength In Life...

In Memory Of My Mother
Margaret Mae Dineen Tyson
7/21/1926-Died 12/13/2009

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth "

Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

My mother was a lifelong devout Catholic. At the end of her life she saw Mary sitting on the bed holding her hand. I see no reason to doubt these visions and miracles. Death is a holy mystery, and I offer this song and this prayer up to my mother, whom I love with all my heart, now, and at the hour of her death. Amen.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Desiderata as a Prayer and My Christmas Card to you all...

The Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

~ Max Ehrmann ~
Copyright 1952

Dear Ones,

I have started this entry five different times, always beginnning with The Desiderata, and then continuing on with long writings afterwards, none of which seemed right by the time I got finished with them. Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees so to speak.

I has all come, simply, down to this. I have been repeating, daily, over and over, like a prayer, the beautiful Desiderata, and I thought Yes! It is Christmas time and I've no time this year for holiday notes, don't know when the time for gift shopping will come, and sit waiting breathlessly day by day waiting for my blessed mother's passing which will come very soon.

In light of all of this, I realized that the poem stands alone, I don't need to write a long piece after it, I want to give it to you, dear readers, and pray that it brings you the peace that it has brought to me through these hard times, and yes, it can be read like a prayer, and a good one, I think, to carry into the new year.

Blessings and Love, Gentleness and Kindness, and Tender Thoughts and Prayers to you this holiday season. To all of you who read my blogs, and have supported me with so many kind comments that I haven't had time to answer this year, I wish you a Happy Christmas & Merry Everything...


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Suspended Between Heaven and Earth ~ When The Soul Is Trapped In The Body...

Leaves have their time to fall,
And flowers to wither at the north-wind's breath,
And stars to set; but all, Thou hast all seasons
for thine own, O Death!

~ John Milton, The Hour of Death ~

Dear Ones,

Dying is such a mysterious process. My mother has now been on Hospice for a month. Her doctor didn't even think that she would last 2 weeks once on Hospice, and she is more than ready to go, she wants to go, she can no longer sit up alone, is terribly weak and thin, and when you talk to her -- if she's able to talk for a minute at all -- she sounds as if she is drifting away. On Thanksgiving, just as we were all about to sit down to eat, mom wanted to tell us all goodbye. She said that "this was it," and I asked her how she knew, what made her think this was the time, and she said she just knew. She wants badly for it all to be over, and yet here she still is. A devout Catholic, my mother sees the Virgin Mary sitting on the bed next to her, holding her hand. She says that Mary is going to help her over to the other side. And yet the tiny delicate woman that she has become sleeps all day, becomes weaker and weaker, and no one can see how this can go on much longer.

It's almost harder than seeing her through the five years that this cancer has had it's grip on her, because then she was trying to fight it, doing all manner of treatments and experimental drugs. October 28 she went on Hospice and she is still here. We are all rather dumbstruck, and it is heart-breaking to see her want so badly to go when she has suffered so long. It's as if her spirit is on the edge of slipping out of her body, but for some reason cannot yet be set free. I think this time is more excruciating than anything that came before. She asked how long she's been on Hospice and when told a month she said, "That's too long." Where are the angels at this juncture? Why is her spirit still trapped in her body?

When I read Milton's quote, above, about the seasons of one's death, I wondered which season my mother is in. Surely it is winter, soon that last leaf will drop from the tree, but it is impossible to understand how one's body can hold out against all odds, even when the dying person wants badly to go. She keeps telling everyone "Goodbye" and I wonder if in saying it part of her believes she can will it to happen. Why is the last leaf that falls able to hold out until the others have fallen before them? My mother has changed colors in the autumn of her dying process and now, deep in winter, how can there still be this one leaf on the tree? Is there a purpose? Just now, we cannot see or understand.

But there is a reason, one that we are not meant to know. No one knows when the exact moment of death will come, and often it is not due to the illness that one has been battling for their very life. Finally, the body is tired, the defenses down, and it may be the heart that gives out, weakened by the struggle. Who can say?

What I do know is that when given a short time to live five years ago, if she had died when the doctors expected her to then, we would not have healed many, many painful issues from a lifetime of struggling. In the beginning they were still there, but finally, like the logs in the fireplace burning down to glowing embers, when everything else has been burned away, her fire will gently go out. She is not finished with her work here. She has been leading us by her example all along the way. What will we yet learn before the spirit spirals upward and out of this earthly plane? Surely, there is something that holds her here.

Thanksgiving night she kept repeating to each of us, "I just want you all to know how beautiful dying is. I am at peace, I am not afraid, I am ready to go." Like the legacy she has left us in her constant reminder, even through the worst the cancer had to offer, that "Everyday's a good day, it is what you make it," now she is teaching us the beauty and the grace of death itself. She will be my muse long after she is gone. She has shown us, through five years of her dying process, how one can be held up by strong faith and a positive attitude, she has never complained, has been more concerned about the people around her than she has been herself, and now, as the final hour approaches, she wants us all to know what a beautiful and peaceful transition death is, and I come almost, finally, to truly understand what people mean when they discuss the spirit finally being set free from the mortal coil. He body is disappearing, her soul is growing, her spirit is ready to take flight.

Now, I wake every hour or two all night long. When the phone rings my heart clutches... is this the call? And while I know I will be filled with sadness and will grieve her passing, there is something that happens when the dying process has been very long and slow, somehow, amidst the moment by moment, one breath to the next time, everyone can perhaps let go a little more, the part of us that doesn't want to let go and lose our loved one. Even when we have told them it's alright to let go, to not hold on for anyone or anything but to go when she is ready, there will still be those who cling in fear and this can hold the dying person back from their final exit.

Perhaps, in my mother's beginning a trail of goodbyes, fading and falling like the spent petals of a rose, those who have clung too hard for too long may, finally, with grace, let go. I think when the final person lets go, truly sets her free, her spirit will soar. Or so I imagine it to be.

My mother has taught me to make every day a good day, the best it can possibly be, and in the end, when it is time to go, to go in peace, without fear, and to let go, holding on to nothing, and simply to allow my spirit to rise up out of my body and be set free. My mother has taught me how to live, and now she has taught me how to die. What greater gifts can one be given?

And so now we are walking that final walk with her, and very shortly we will have to stop at the precipice, the place that we cannot yet go. But my mother's spirit will be set free and will fly gracefully into the heavens, and be, perhaps, a brilliant star against a velvet black night sky. I believe that. And I know that for the rest of my life my mother will be my guiding star.

What beauty, what blessings she has given us, and she is leaving us with her faith, with her peace, with her knowledge that death is not an ending but a beautiful beginning. Her legacy will live on and on...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hovering Around Something That Is About To Reveal Itself...

"Bill is a painter but so often we seem to be feeling the same things about our work; it's quite astonishing. His phrase, 'hovering around something that is about to reveal itself' -- that is exactly my state these days. And I have always known, as he does, that revelation rises up slowly if one can give it space, and if one keeps at the work, often with no apparent result."

~ May Sarton ~
The House By The Sea

Dear Ones,

I have been hovering here. I have known it but haven't been able to find the proper words to describe it, but when I opened my old weathered copy of my beloved writer and friend May Sarton's The House By The Sea, the book fell open right to the above passage that I had underlined and subsequently bracketed and highlighted on three different readings. I have read and reread all of May's work, especially the journals -- there is so much wisdom these books.

Hovering... something that is about to reveal itself. Yes, that is just it. I speak to my mother for a minute or two each day, if she is able, and I can feel her drifting away, almost ephemeral, but she, too, is hovering. She is ready to go, and it will be soon, but these times of hovering are not easy times. My mother hovers just before her own death, as if in suspended animation. A dear friend is about to become a grandmother for the first time, and her daughter's due date is very near. She, too, is hovering, waiting, wondering, when her baby will be born. I hover, just before the flower, like the humming bird, seeing a whole new life just beyond the portal, but it is not time to cross the threshold. And yet, while I seem to run through the gamut of emotions in a single day, I, too, know that revelation can only rise up if given space, and if we were able to just rush headlong into things, there would be no time, no fertile ground, in which new ideas, new experiences, might sprout. It is a time to till the garden and amend the soil. The planting of the seeds of a new life is just around the corner. You cannot rush a flower to grow, or a garden to become the glory that it will become. The preparation of the earth, before the planting, is a sacred time as well. We hover between seasons, between winter and spring, waiting to plant the garden. We wait, and waiting is good. It makes us appreciate the planting and the flowering all the more.

Oddly, I wondered, as I was writing the paragraph just above, if today's generation of young people will ever really know the experience of hovering? In a world where the current generation of children and young people are growing up with computers, cell phones, cable t.v., their whole lives going at such a fast pace it takes one's breath away, I wonder if they will ever learn to take time for contemplation, for solitude, for a lone walk in the woods, looking for wildflowers and mushrooms and creatures in their natural element? I hope so. I pray that the children of today can learn these things, for they are the ones who will shape the future, and you need silence, and solitude, to quiet the heart and the mind, to clear the path for what will come. I wonder about that as I write with a pug snoring beside me, and wonder what I will be planting in my new garden next spring. I can look at the seed catalogs, have fun choosing flowers in my mind, but it is not yet time to sow the seeds. I am hovering between here and there, and the painful lesson, just now, of being in a place of not knowing, is a very important one to learn.

An old woman is dying, a baby about to be born, and a middle-aged woman, on the cusp of Cronehood, is about to enter a time and place in life where she will fulfill her destiny, do the work that her whole life has been an apprenticeship for. Hovering times are sacred passages, wherein the soul waits and allows time to come to them rather than rushing toward the time to come. One waits, wonders, finally releases thought, and emotion, and, as if floating in place, comes to a peace about what lies ahead.

I have been thinking, just today, that until we can come to that peace, the thing will not happen, cannot begin. Does the soul have fingers? Is it holding on, just a little, gradually letting go, until it slips away over to the other side? Does the baby know when it is time to emerge from the womb, or does the womb know that it is time for the baby to slip out into the strange new land in which he or she will spend their life? Transitions. Metamorphosis. And the time just before, the preparation for the sacred journey, is the hovering place. I begin to see this time not as a hard and painful time full of grief and mourning, but a quiet, gentle time to sit in a meditative state and allow the waves to lap at my feet, facing out to a sea whose opposite edge I cannot see. It's okay not to see the other side of the ocean, we know it is there. That's enough.

My mother, just awhile ago, told me in her fragile little voice, as she has many times over this five year cancer journey, "Remember honey, every day's a good day. It is what you make it. It's all about choice. We all have choice..." and then her voice faded and drifted off. These precious last days with her I am as if a pupil sitting at her master's feet. In each conversation, be it only a couple of minutes on the days that she can talk at all, my mother leaves me with some pearl of wisdom, or a gift for me to take into the future. And though we have had a complex relationship as mother and daughter in this life, now there is only love, and a deeper love than has ever existed between us. Why is it that so often it is only in the face of loss that we hold precious and dear what we have before us in the moment right now? In the face of death nothing else matters. To love is all there is. I will never stop loving her.

And so now I hover. I will meditate on the picture of the hummingbird, and wonder if even this beautiful, delicate creature realizes, in some part of itself, just before it slips its long slender beak down deep into the flower to drink it's nectar, in the time of hovering, I wonder if just for a second there is a sublime moment, the anticipation of, the time that makes the time before just as sweet and the sipping of the nectar itself.

Death is not sweet, but it is a sacred time, and part of the Mystery. No living soul will ever understand the true experience of birth and death. We know the mechanics around the experiences, but when the soul enters and leaves the body we, who are witnesses, can only stand in silent reverie, in prayer, and bear witness to the processes that bring us into and out of life. The curtain opens and a life begins. The curtain closes after the final act, and the players disappear from view. The time of hovering is over. A baby is born, a woman dies, and her daughter, after the sharp cut of grieving, loss, and the aftermath subside, steps out of the darkness and into a new life. I imagine it as being like in the movie, The Wizard of Oz, when everything turns from black and white to technicolor. Will my mother shed her mortal coil and enter a place of color and beauty and light? Theologians and Philosophers alike speculate and argue the point, but I believe that it is a transformation beyond our imagining. I believe that the mysteries of birth and death are not for us to know, but in bearing witness we are reminded of a vast unseen world around us, and we, if we are open in the moment, can cherish now, today, this second, because it's all we have, and what lies behind us and what lies before us we cannot know.

Today, I am hovering. I have come to peace with this place. I am allowing my soul to prepare itself for the time ahead. Like the hummingbird, I am hovering in space, and I am content here, for now.

In the moment before The Mystery, I hover...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Following The Heart, The Spiral Journey ~ And Living Through Liminal Times...

"My topic is about transitions or the stuff out of which life is made, liminal and archetypal situations. The word liminal refers to being over the threshold but not through to the other side. It comes from the Latin word "limen" meaning that place in between. When you're in a transition zone, you're neither who you used to be before you got into this transition, nor have you crossed over that threshold to where you will be settled next...There is always an ending of one phase of your life in order to develop and grow into another phase."

~ Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen ~

There is no better way to explain what I am going through than Dr. Bolen's discussion on liminal times. On the threshold, where you are not who you were, and not yet who you will be. And as you sit on that threshold, metaphorically, there is much going on.

Surprising things will happen, perplexing things, you will make your mind up, firmly, about something that feels very important, and then turn so fast in the other direction your head will spin. It is a spiral journey, wherein your life to date has brought you to the center of the spiral, and now you must find your way out. It can be harrowing, certainly frightening, you feel tentative and confused, and often, like me, your Circadian Rhythms flip-flop all over the place leaving you exhausted and sleeping (or not) at odd hours, out of step with the rest of the world, and living through something there is no way to explain. Your actions may bring criticism, and there will never be a more important time for you to be steadfast in your belief in yourself, and to follow your heart, as you prepare to finally step over the threshold and into the new life and times ahead.

I have been afraid. I have been teary eyed a good bit of time, sometimes from fear and confusion and often from lack of sleep. My mother's dying process is part of this, but when she dies my life will change dramatically in so many ways that I have to both prepare for the changes, and yet I am will not be making the changes until after she passes. At one of the most emotional and heartbreaking times in my life I still have to soldier ahead and do what I have to do to take care of my own life.

So now I sit on the threshold, leaning against the door frame, hugging my knees to my chest and rocking back and forth, eyes closed, breathing, and meditating. All things will flow just as they are supposed to, and no one can help me. The most important thing that we can and need to do is to be steadfast in following our own heart's wisdom about what is right for us during this time, and not allowing others around us try to dissuade us, and they will. Some will be afraid for you, some will not like the choices you are making, some may even be jealous and try to undermine you, but you keep breathing, you stay in the present moment, keep moving forward and you keep your heart wide open so that you can hear what it is telling you. The wisdom of the heart is life's greatest gift, for it comes from spiritual sources beyond our understanding, and we are not meant to question, simply to follow. This is such a time for me.

I will give you an example and it is important enough that it woke me up in the middle of the night and a very important answer came to me. I had been feeling very off about something and I hadn't quite known what it was. At 2 a.m. I knew.

Sunday I started writing a novel with the NaNoWriMo program (
National Novel Writing Month). It is an incredible program and many writers have sold books and even ended up on the New York Times Bestseller list coming out of this intense month of writing. I wrote almost 2000 words on Sunday and I am very proud of the writing. I think it's a novel I can pick up at some time and finish. I love my character and her story, but the thing is it is a light-hearted and sometimes very funny story, (also a very deep tale of a woman's journey in the last 30 years of a very long life...) and I am just not at that place in my life. Not only is it hard to write humorous literary fiction when your mother is dying, but I realized, after one night of almost no sleep at all, and last night falling asleep at 7:30 p.m. simply exhausted, and then waking up at 2 and sitting here in a very contemplative place until 5 a.m. before going back to sleep for awhile, that it is not time to write this novel, and at 5 a.m. I pulled out of the program to pursue what I'm really supposed to write. It is the book I have been working on for some time, and it comes right out of this blog. It is called Maitri's Heart, and is about a woman at midlife and beyond going through these liminal changes.

I write non-fiction, poetic prose, it is my strong suit. I have written twelve novels that did not sell and though I love writing the kind of non-fiction you read on this blog, part of me has felt "less than" because none of my novels sold. In the end I realized that while I have always read and loved fiction, nearly swallowing some books whole and having, often, several books going at once, the novel that I want to write is something for a future time and needs to be something different than what I started. Writing
Maitri's Heart is part of what I need to do at this time in my life. It is part of what will help me cross the threshold.

After I made that decision it was as though the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. So often we get into something and, even when we know the timing is not right, we will keep at it, against our deepest knowing that we really should be doing something else, simply because we are embarrassed. I will be addressing that later today on my Unimaginable Dreams Made Manifest blog. Embarrassment is a useless and even egoistic emotion. Being true to ourselves is not always easy, but if we are to serve our life's journey to the best of our ability, and grow abundantly in the direction we were meant to grow, we need to continue to follow the path before us as we are led to and not afraid to say, "No, this is not right for me now, perhaps at another time, but I am going to do _______ instead." Be prepared to have those around you call you wishy-washy, tell you that you never finish anything, and even, perhaps, treat you with disdain, but remember that is coming from inside of them, not you. Only you know what's best for your own life, and it is up to you to make the choices that will take you where you need to go.

Too, there really are no mistakes. Though we may take a different direction than the one we thought we would take, we have not lost anything. Those brief times in our life when we do something that we decide is not right for us at this time in our lives are actually stepping stones along the path, leading us, if we will fully embrace them, to exactly where we need to go. We may choose to change our mind about a certain decision, but we will have taken something with us from the thing discarded for a different fork in the road. Those things will serve us very well.

The NaNoWriMo writing that I did on Sunday, which I really enjoyed, and now understanding the way that NaNoWriMo works, helped me to understand some of the problems I have had approaching the writing of Maitri's Heart. I can use some of the tools that I learned there, and move forward from here finally about to do what I need to do at this time. Without NaNoWriMo, and what I learned there, I would be not be picking up my non-fiction work today and committing to write every day until it is finished. I have been given a great gift, and its import is not lost on me.

So what I would leave you with is this. Do not be afraid to follow your heart. Do not let others dissuade you when you are going down roads that they don't understand. They have a journey of their own that is their destiny and they will not make it through if they are so tied up in yours. That's a great tactic, avoiding our own work spending time telling others how we think they should be living their lives. We can only live our own lives, and no one can tell us how to do it. And that expression, "Never explain, never complain," is very apt here. We often spend so much time apologizing for ourselves and our choices and actions because we are emotionally battered by others who would try to get us to change our course that we never move ahead. We need to make our own choices and stick to them firmly, and don't engage in discussions about the whys and the wherefores. Do what you need to do and keep on keeping on.

So I am on my way. I have reset my course and I will keep moving forward, in a similar, albeit slightly different, direction. I know this is right. And so I gather my belongings up in my carpet bag, throw it over my shoulder and prepare to step over to the other side. We can only do it when we grasp the lessons of liminality, and the importance of following our own heart. In the middle of the night I knew what I had to do and I am doing it. And nothing has ever felt better. I am on my way...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How Should I Live The Life That I Am?

"HOW SHOULD I LIVE THE LIFE that I am?" writes Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. I hear it as a cry. I see a man shaking his fist at the creator. Respectfully."

From Mary Rose O'Reilley's
~ The Love Of Impermanent Things ~

Mary Rose O'Reilley is one of my favorite modern non-fiction writers. She wrote a book that I've read and reread and had my students and friends reading and it is, without a doubt, one of the best books I've ever read. It is The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd. It is positively stunning. When I heard she had a new book out, some time back, I rushed to order it, but it sat here in the stacks of books around me and, things being what they've been, I haven't been able to concentrate well to read much of anything. I started, and didn't get very far because I knew that I wanted to give it my full attention when finally reading it. Well, I started reading it again last night, and, as I expected, I have been completely swept away by yet another book by this incredible author.

I sit with colored pencils in one hand loosely while I read because I am always underlining, highlighting, parenthesizing, (I am a horror to those people who cringe at the thought of so much as a faint pencil mark somewhere in a book.) because I don't want to forget a thing and there are so many quotes I want to remember. Not very far into the book I read a brief quote that I had underlined before. I felt it's import then, but it shook me to my core last night as I read it.

How should I live the life that I am?

How indeed? And I was tired and I had to keep rereading it before it would wholly sink in. "... the life that I am." I am a life. It felt like a Zen koan, a puzzle, a question to twist one's mind around and make them think. A koan is paradoxical, and something one can think about for days. This sentence is a koan for me.

How should I live... live... live...

... the life that I am... am... am...

And then it suddenly struck me. This is exactly what I've been writing about a lot lately. I am about to cross a threshold into a whole new life and I have been pondering, questioning, and meditating upon the first part of that question. "How should I live?"

I have always wanted to live a life of simplicity, a kind of Woman's Walden, but this is not so easy in present day society and, being rather hermetic, and more than a bit reclusive, I have created a whole world in which I live and work and rarely leave. Given those circumstances, and living with a dozen or so animals, books everywhere all over the cottage, and a truckload of fiber and spinning, weaving, knitting, and crochet equipment, not to mention vintage fabrics, and thousands of antique and vintage buttons and beads, and the odd collections of vintage things like enamelware, teapots, jugs, and flower pots, to name a few things, along with the African violets that grow everywhere, I can't exactly say that I live a simple life in terms of things, but I live a very simple, quiet life mostly alone if you don't count my animal companions and the wild birds at the feeders, not to mention the insects, lizards, toads, the occasional snake, furry creatures and more that live outside my doors. These are all parts of the life that I am, and I am just now figuring out how I want to live it.

I have been looking at houses for a couple of months now. I looked at a number of seaside cottages about 1/2 hour from here, but they were either falling down (if I could afford one that I liked which were few and far between...) or they were so ungodly expensive there was no way I could touch them. Instead I decided that I wanted to stay here in this little town that I said I never wanted to live in or stay in, but it has grown comfortable like an old pair of shoes, and I think the older ones gets the more the familiar feels more comfortable. I have been looking for a house that was a little older, had a lived in feeling and a bit of history. (Again, I can't afford the dreamy historic homes. We have the most wonderful downtown historic area on the river but the houses are simply grand and so far out of my price range they might as well be on the moon, or they are falling down and located in what one calls "bad neighborhoods.") I want a place that is both roomy and a cozy feeling which is kind of a contradiction in terms, but I have all these various and sundry needs. I am a realtor's nightmare, but my realtor, Susan, is simply grand and puts up with me I know not how.

With my budget not to mention my somewhat peculiar tastes in things, finding houses to look at at all is a bit of an undertaking, and out of several that we have looked at, until this last week, there was only one in my price range that I liked. But then... oh heavens to Betsy! ... then, just last week, believe it or not, we found a house with pretty well everything I wanted, IN my price range, with -- brace yourself -- a SPACE SHIP in the back yard. I kid you not. It is big enough to get in and play about, at the back of the property and just HUGE. Adult sized. It was built for grown up kids, and kind of cartoonish, and just FABULOUS. I went all gaga which I was able to do because no one was there but my realtor and I, and there are still a number of questionable things about the place, but living in a house that has a space ship out back is just exactly the kind of person that I am and how I want to live.

At the outset I told Susan that I wanted something odd, you know, the houses that look like a big shoe or a teapot, or at the very least a lighthouse or -- and this is so fabulous I just can't stand it -- a couple of artists turned an old fire station into their home/studio, living upstairs and having the studio downstairs. I simply can't believe it and practically drive off the road gawking at it every time I pass. Alas there aren't any shoe or teapot houses in these parts, the lighthouses are actually working lighthouses along the coast, and old firehouses aren't exactly a dime a dozen in these parts. I did hear about a little old school house for sale and went just all to pieces over that, but it turned out it was falling down and way out yonder in nowheresville which sounds romantic but isn't very practical for me. But a great big space ship out in the back yard might do just fine.

I am also an ordained minister but a rather peculiar one at that. My regular parishioners are mostly parrots and pugs, plus people who don't even know that they are amongst my congregation at all, not to mention the people who will never meet me but whom I pray for and with, listen to, write back and forth with, counsel, and mostly I live the life of the anchorite, alone, in the quiet peaceful space I have created so as to pray and meditate and offer what I have through my writing and art.

The life that I am seems to be the life of a very peculiar, reclusive woman-minister-animal lover and rescuer-writer-artist-and woman who likes houses with space ships in the back yard. It's a bit of a stretch to try to figure out how to live the life that I am with that laundry list of things I seem to require, and yet I know I'll do it and I am as excited as a little kid going to Disneyland at the very thought (...especially with the space ship in the back yard. Did I mention that?).

The life that I am seems to be one that few people have ever understood, and that used to bother me. I am a little too tender-hearted and thin skinned, or rather I used to be. As life goes along you have two choices. You can decide to give up on everything you know that you are, that you want, that you dream of just to make other people happy, or more comfortable, but then you find that won't really please them either and you'll have given up on everything that matters to you. I have chosen to live the life that I am, and I warmly welcome those who can accept me as I am, space ships, pugs, parrots and all, and to the rest, well, I wish them well on their journey, but they will not be part of mine. I do not say this in anger or with resentment. I simply say it as a 55 year old woman who has finally come to the point where I will no longer apologize every other minute for who I am, and simply revel in it. I am going to live the life that I am as fully as possible, with love, compassion, and tenderness, artfully, and with a house full of animals, and if the space ship house doesn't work out, the house I buy will have something odd about it or I won't buy it. So there.

How should I live the life that I am? Well, I haven't quite figured it all out yet, but it becomes clearer each day, and I thank God for the blessing of coming to the acceptance of all of who I am, and for allowing me the ability, in sharing my journey, to help others, where I can. I believe that is my mission, my path in this life.

And so now it is after 2 a.m. and the pug half way on my person is snoring so loudly that I can hardly think, so I'll end here, nudge him a bit so perhaps he'll settle in a little so I can concentrate to read, and I will dream about the life just ahead, and who I might be in the middle of it all.

You should ask yourself this question. It's quite confusing at the outset, but very satisfying and even surprising as you go along. I am learning more about myself each and every day, and I am ever so grateful for the gift of the questions answered, and those still posed. It's a long and winding road, this figuring out the life that I am not to mention how I should live it, but it's very worthwhile after all, and I'll keep delving deeper, an archaeologist at the greatest dig of my life -- discovering the bones of my very being.

Here's a shovel for you. Let's get to it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Radiance ~ At The Edge Of The Body...

At th
e edge of the body there is said to be a flaming halo -- yellow, red, blue or pure white, taking its color from the state of the soul. Cynics scoff. Scientists make graphs to refute it. Editorial writers, journalists & even certain poets, claim it is only mirage, trumped up finery, illusory feathers, spiritual shenanigans, humbug. But in dreams we see it, & sometimes even waking. If the spirit is a bride about to be married to God, this is her veil.

From the poem,
"At the Edge of The Body"
by Erica Jong, 1979

The final moments are closing in. My mother has decided to go on Hospice on Monday, and after that the time will come quickly. The colors are changing. My world is shape-shifting. Hers, even more so. My mother is living at the edge of her body, and she is preparing to slip out of it into that place that is pure spirit. She will become ephemeral, transparent. Will I feel her leave this earth at the moment of her death? Will I know before I am told? Somehow I think I will, and at the same time I fear it. And yet how can one fear that radiant release of spirit from a body long ill and suffering, into the arms of the angels and into the heavens.

It is not my place, even as a minister, or, more to the point, the type of minister I want to be, to tell another living soul what happens before the veil lifts, or, after it closes, because I have been granted, as have we all, the
Veil of Forgetfulness, that time before spirit re-enters human form and is born as a baby, forgetting everything he knew before egg and sperm met and and he slipped through the veil and prepared to come into human form. Nor is it my place to advise anyone about what dying will be like, when the spirit slips out of it's body and moves back through the veil. Into the light, and out of sight. It is the Great Mystery, and we all have our beliefs, even those that say they have no faith have faith in something, even if it is nothing.

I am, at 3 a.m. on the morning of October 10th, 2009, preparing for my mother's passing, and nothing can prepare one, really, for that. I am, perhaps, preparing for the time ahead, most of all knowing that I know nothing, really, about the alchemy of spirit into form into spirit, but I believe, I feel in my heart, that on each end of life there is a great radiance. A moment when a rainbow explodes around the body and shimmers into tiny particles fanning out and out and further and further away. At the edge of the body a miracle occurss.

I have given birth and held my newborn child in my arms. For nine months I carried my babies inside of me and for each one I waited. That is one of those times that we think we can prepare for. We are given a due date and we read all the right books and take childbirth classes and think we are "prepared," and yet a baby is seldom born on his or her due date, and no amount of books, classes, or the endless stories you hear from the women around you who have given birth, none of them can tell you what your birth experience will be like, or exactly when your baby will arrive, or how your labor and delivery will go, and nothing will go as planned. But then... but then you hold your baby in your arms and another kind of veil drops down behind you and we forget the pain of childbirth, the heaviness and discomfort of those last months of pregnancy, the worries, the fears, or if there is anything we forgot to do, which seemed so important up to the minute we go into labor and are launched on a journey more mysterious than a space ship into space. We are the instrument of birth.

The closest thing that has helped me understand what birth and the role of parent and child is has been Kahlil Gibran, writing, in
The Prophet, "On Children."

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Reading those words once again, as I have so often when I needed to remember what my role as a mother should be, I am once again in awe of Gibran's understanding of the journey of the soul's entry into this life, his journey through life, and our place, as parents, is to shepherd them but not hold onto them, to love them, but let them go, to stand back and let them become who they will be, and to trust that
"...the archer will see the mark on the path of the infinite, and that His arrows may go swift and far."

No, our children are not our children, as Gibran writes, and there is a great teaching in his words. And so as my mother nears her time to step through the veil and leave her earthly body, I turn to Gibran again to see what he wrote "On Death."

You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

I have lost count of how many times I have read
The Prophet, but each time I do I am stunned by the beauty of the passages that Gibran wrote, of his knowledge of timeless time, of birth and living, and of dying and dancing into the light. I have tears in my eyes. I will grieve, and be full of sorrow. But as my children are not my children, but Life's longing for itself, I must step aside and let them spring from the bow and let the arrow fly swift and far, so, too, must I let my mother stand naked in the wind and melt into the sun.

My mother is not afraid to die. She told me just yesterday that she is relieved that it is time. And she means it. My mother is a woman of great faith, and though, as a human being, she must have, in quiet moments, some fear of the unknown, she is not afraid of the journey. I hope that I can follow in her footsteps when my time comes.

Veil times are times of radiance, even if we, as human beings, cannot understand them until we travel that path into and once again out toward the light, but every one of us on this earth has done one, and will, some day unknown to us, do the other. In death, as well as in life, we cannot know our "due date," and I think it is best that we don't.

When my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in mid February, 2005, she was told that she had a very short time to live, and that she should "go home and put her affairs in order." She has outlived that diagnosis by nearly five years. No one really knows. We can't know. Babies are born, sometimes, months prematurely, and death comes only when our work in this world is finished. My mother has not been finished until now.

The baby feels the squeezing of the womb on her body, and finally the time comes to travel through the tunnel into life. My mother, though she has suffered unimaginably, dying in slow motion it seemed to all of us, going through the pain and the suffering, was not ready until now. I think, I believe, that like birth, our spirit knows when the body can no longer contain it, and it travels through that dark tunnel back into the light. Knowing this comforts me somehow, although I know that I, still, only too human, will weep and struggle with her parting. My children came when they were ready, my mother will leave when she is ready as well, perhaps not consciously, but like the baby born, the dying person knows that the time will come, and that when it does come they will be transformed, they will experience another way of being. No matter what our beliefs, we cannot really know how it will be.

And so my mother is preparing for her death. She is standing at the edge of her body, and she is ready to shape-shift into the next dimension. I cannot stop it nor imagine it, no matter how many books I've read, nor how I think I have prepared to lose her. I am in awe of her dying process. I wish that I really understood, but I can only let go.

I am letting go Mom. I am trying. Go in peace.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Contemplating The Enigma...

I. The Early Motion

The poet stands at the center of the universe contemplating the Enigma. He draws sustenance from the masterpieces of the past.

Studying the four seasons as they pass, he sighs. Seeing the inter-connectedness of things, he knows the many ways of the world.

He mourns the leaves torn away by the cruel hands of autumn; he honours the fragrant tender buds of spring.

Autumn frost sends a shudder through his heart; summer clouds can make his spirit soar.

He learns to recite the classics; he sings in the clear fragrance of old masters.
He explores the treasures of the classics where form and content join.

Thus moved, he lays aside his books and takes the writing brush in hand to make this composition.

The Art Of Writing
by Lu Chi, 261 A.D.
Translated by Sam Hamill

I have been trying to write a new piece on this blog for weeks now. I started several, but none were right. I mentioned last time that this blog is not updated as often as the others because it is so important to me, I have to swim fathoms deep within myself to find the right words, and, like the game where a handful of colored stones are thrown into a deep pool and one must dive in to retrieve the one perfect stone, one goes deep and surfaces again, gasping for air, catching one's breath, and then dives down again. It is in this way that I approach writing this blog. I think I went through nearly ever single stone before Wen Fu helped me to surface.

This blog, Maitri's Heart, is, in it's way, so secret, so hidden, it is as though with each post I am reaching inside and pulling my heart out of my body to lie on a platter before you.

This is my heart ... watch it beating ... put your hand on your own chest and feel your heart ... our hearts beat as one ... write your truth Maitri, write your truth, write your truth to help others...

And so, like a novitiate who kneels, finally, to take the solemn vow, I have taken the vow of silence, and with it the vow of words. From the deepest part of me, I give you my heart, that all of our hearts might be connected as one.

I have realized, in these past painful months, that my coming out of the cocoon, as I've written about, wasn't a loss of any kind, but a preparation. The time ahead of me will be fraught with change, and like the novitiate about to take her solemn vow, I am about to step over the line from whence there is no turning back. I have been preparing for this since the day I was born.

The Enigma.

Why would a small, frightened child, who lived in a complex world of confusion, abuse, love, hate, secrets, things dark and hidden, and more, find her only true connection in life when hidden underneath a large grove of golden yellow forsythia bushes, a little spiral note and pen clasped to her chest, and only then, only when the words found their way onto the page, could she breathe, could she speak, could she say the words that no one could hear. They lived on the page alone, but they kept her alive, and so they have for fifty-five years.

One of my earlier memories was when I was about ten years old. The nuns at the school were very concerned about me and knew that something was very wrong, but knew not what. They told my mother that I should be taken to a "doctor," meaning a psychiatrist. I was painfully shy, withdrawn, and yet I could be a social butterfly. My nickname for myself was chameleon. I could change colors to fit in anywhere, but I was never truly seen. I learned to protect myself from very young. I learned to slide down inside the pen where no one could see me. I could hide inside the barrel of the 19 cent Bic pen and only come out when there were more words to write. I would not have survived without those forsythia bushes, the little red spiral notebook, and the Bic pen.

So my mother took me to the psychiatrist. He told her that I was an extremely sensitive child, and that something had happened to me, or was happening to me, but he knew not what. (Sexual abuse was not talked about or dealt with in those days.)

He had me do ink blot tests. I remember those, doing those, but I don't know why I had to take them or what they meant. There were other meaningless tests, and I was sent home with the "extremely sensitive" diagnosis to a land where a little girl was abused, and secrets were kept, and presents were given. Money and presents kept me quiet.

I have had trouble with money all of my life. It's the only way I had ever been soothed. For most of my life I could walk into and out of the most expensive store in the world, and all I would carry out with me was a pen. A new pen, another chance at life.

Abused children need lots of chances.

My childhood, the abuse, the mystery, the secrets went on in time, and the chameleon perfected her shape-shifting color-changing life until no one knew her at all.

This may be why I have spent the better part of forty years in therapy, more in than out, and now, I have settled into "maintenance," that place where all of your "diagnoses" are known, after much shuffling of medications the ones that work and make you look like a sane person most of the time have been prescribed and are taken, and life goes on as it will, one way or another, for the rest of one's life.

The diagnoses...

Bi-Polar Disorder, Type 2 (The more depressive rather than the manic side of things); PTSD Type 2 (The kind treatable but not curable. Looks like I'm on some kind of "2" jag.); Borderline Agoraphobic (I love that, when I'm not a 2 I'm a borderline...) meaning that I can go out sometimes for brief periods, but it takes it's toll, I rarely do it, I arrive home near panic, and may not leave the house again for a week or two or three, depending on what needs to be done in a critical sense. Then there's the Borderline Personality Disorder. Apparently that's not prevalent for me but it is there. I think it has something to do with my chameleon youth, and the fact that I left my body so often to go somewhere else so that I didn't know what was going on, that sometimes I had trouble re-entering. Rocky landings, dontcha know. (Do not let this lead you to think that I am Sybil or something, amongst all of my stone soup ingredients, or diagnoses, I do not have MPD -- Multiple Personality Disorder -- though if you asked the pugs they might beg to differ.) And to top it all off I have a pretty severe anxiety disorder.

Aren't I something?

The meds and wonderful doctor keep me on track and if you met me you'd likely not think I was anything out of the ordinary. The thing we don't realize is that we are all out of the ordinary, it's just that nobody knows what ordinary really is.

Besides the above hodgepodge I have a near Mensa I.Q. I have a huge heart. I am a very gentle, sympathetic, empathetic person, and a natural healer.

I am an artist whose art grows out of her body and other natural things and found objects, and parting with a piece of it -- they usually take months to make and are quite complex -- always feels like losing a body part. That's if I can bear to sell a piece of my work at all. It suddenly came to me, not long ago, that having no body in my early life (because I had left it to survive) and having taken somewhere toward middle age to realize that I had one (even though I didn't know what to do with it, and gained a lot of weight just to keep it tethered to the earth, but now, finally, am seriously losing weight and shocked to see that my body does not just float off and disappear like a helium balloon...) I can be alive. I can have a body. I can be safe. What a surprise. And I can hold on to the special pieces I create if I need them to feel whole.

I try to balance this by working on things that I love that I can sell. I handspin complex art yarns on old fashioned hand spindles. I clean, dye, and spin pretty well all of the yarns I use for my big projects, I make jewelry out of stones that have healing powers, even if the wearer doesn't believe in such things it doesn't matter. Love, spirit, and good intent go into every piece of art I create, and that, most of all, is what is meant to be felt.

And so... and so I am 55, and this year I was ordained as a minister, and though I can and have performed a wedding, and have spent most of my life teaching out in the world, the older I get the smaller my world looks to everyone else and the larger it looks to me. You see, I am no longer a novitiate. When people think of cloistered orders, nuns, monks, or the hermit in a cave on a mountain, they imagine a lonely existence. Something perhaps hollow, empty, and somehow lacking. What most people don't realize is that to do the work of your deepest soul you need silence and solitude, and more, it is the most deeply fulfilling work that you can do.

I am many, many things and the one thing I won't, will not ever again, do, is hide any part of my life, even if others find it distasteful, confusing, or even frightening. I'll give you a list. It is all true, it is all a part of who I am, I am proud of it all and comfortable with it now, I live in my own skin comfortably, and I believe I was meant to go through everything that I have in my life so that I could open my hands and my heart and my eyes and, quietly, from my cloistered world, help heal others with my words. I am no longer a novitiate. I have bowed down on my knees and taken the mantle, and I walk in the world, now, as...

* A woman

* A child of abuse

* A child who was loved

* A child who was misunderstood and frightened

* A chameleon child who was many things to many people but only one person to herself

* A married woman, now an ex

* A woman was thought to be a heterosexual all of my life (it was always sketchy to me), which a husband of nearly 30 years, three children, and the first of who knows how many grandchildren might belie, but...

* I am a lesbian. I am a lesbian and when I came out and said it out loud I felt whole for the first time in my life. People said, "Don't tell anyone." I said, "I have kept secrets all of my life, and I'm not keeping this one. I am a lesbian, and finally at home in my own skin, and though, barring a very few brief relationships, I have been alone almost ever since coming out, it does not make me any less a lesbian.

* I was raised Catholic, have spent thirty years or more as a serious student of Buddhism, I was ordained by a Christian minister, I am an interfaith, non-denominational minister who can perform any and every kind of alternative wedding imaginable, but will no longer perform another ceremony until all are afforded that privilege. I open my arms to all paths of spirituality that are based in love, kindness, non-judgment and an open heart. I am a minister who seeks no title. I've tried, but it keeps feeling awkward. It's because I'm meant to live a cloistered life, for the most part, and give from my heart to all that I meet and anyone I can reach, and my name, Maitri, is enough. My name says it all. I am, on paper, Reverend Mother Maitri Libellule. I have used various forms of that title. I went back to Maitri. I tried Mother Maitri. I kept trying on different clergical hats and none of them fit. I look better in my flamingo hat.

"Maitri" is the Buddhist teaching of loving-kindness and compassion, and at its core the teaching is about the need to have that kindness and compassion for ourselves first, because without that we are an empty well, and we have nothing to give to another. I took the name Maitri legally five years ago because I meant this teaching to be my life's work. I don't need a title. I am simply Maitri, except on legal papers where I have to use my last name. I shall be spending the weeks ahead changing every single place I used my "Rev." title back to simply Maitri
. I really don't need anything else.

This reminds me, fondly, of Colette. While I have a library of books on spirituality including the Bible, Buddhist texts too many to count, numerous books on Native American Spirituality and just about every kind of spiritual practice you can imagine, the book that I call my "Bible" is Earthly Paradise, the collected writings of Colette. This is not sacrilegious. No, the writings of Colette have taught me and led me to all the places, the most deeply spiritual, sacred, and pure places, that things can be found. Love, a ripe piece of fruit, the garden, a small child, words, letters, animals, friends, everything was sacred to her. She has been my greatest Muse, as a writer, a minister, and a woman. Everything was sacred to her, everything was holy.

It is in this book, decades ago, that I first read something that would come to be an important stepping stone in my own life, but I couldn't possibly have seen it then. Colette wrote, in the 1920's...

"So, it came about that both legally and familiarly, as well as in my own books, I now have only one name, which is my own."

Colette, she became Colette.

Maitri. I have become Maitri, and it is both who and what I am, both legally and familiarly.

I was born in April, 1954. Colette died in August, 1954.

My mother was born in July 1926. She will soon die as I pass through the portal and take a turn down the road that will be the rest of my life. It will not begin until my precious mother dies. She leaves me, as Colette left me, a legacy, and now I carry much with me into the holy chapel of my own making where I will dedicate my life to one of service, and I will use the tools that I have been given in this life of mine. Love, faith, the natural world, and all of the wonders and mysteries that are always just beyond our grasp, and give us a reason to keep on living, so that one day, we, too, might experience the Enigma.

I would like to leave you, here, with a couple of paragraphs from the editor of Earthly Paradise, the amazing Robert Phelps, who took a lifetime of writings by one woman who lived more than eighty years, and whose book I am never without. Phelps wrote of Colette...

"But she also knew -- perhaps the word is 'trusted' -- that to be born sentient and watchful is a daily miracle: that the paradis terrestre, the earthly paradise around us, is as wondrous an index of heaven as any we shall ever know; and that to abide here, even as an exile, for seven or eight decades, is a blessing -- because it is a chance to watch, to 'look for a long time at what pleases you,' and to find 'un mot meilleur, et meilleur, que meilleur, a better and better word,' with which to secure it for others.

"And when we, in turn, watch Colette watching, we realize that, along with love and work, this is the third great salvation, or form of prayer, which we have been given. For whenever someone is seriously watching, a form of lost innocence is restored. It will not last, but during those minutes his self-consciousness is relieved. He is less corrupt. He forgets he is going to die. He is very close to that state of grace for which Colette reserved the word, 'pure.' "

I have contemplated the Enigma. I have watched winter turn to spring, spring to summer, and summer into autumn. The leaves are falling from the trees as my mother prepares to shed her mortal coil, and I shall spend my life being watchful, always looking for a better and better word, with the spirits of my mother and Colette around me. They have served me well, words, the life rafts that have floated me this far downstream. I imagine they will take me the rest of the way...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Light, Peace, Circles of Energy and Mystical Things...

"When he left Amanda moved to the exact center of the room and resumed her posture. Her arms became very heavy, then lighter, then very light. What a peaceful place, she thought, feeling the room all around her. She smiled at her hands, concentrating on imagining the circles of energy. Amanda was a very good person to teach something mystical to. As old as she was she could still talk herself into believing anything she wanted to believe."

~ Ellen Gilchrist ~
The Annunciation

Circles of light, of peace, of mystical things...

When I began to write this piece, as I always do, I meditate and make notes about it for a few days, and then I find myself drawn to the book that has just the quote I need in it, and I really seldom know what that quote is when I hold the book in my hands. This is a very special book to me, and Ellen Gilchrist is one of my favorite writers.

A funny thing happened some years back. I had read and reread and taught Gilchrist's books to my students, and when I was able to go to a writer's conference that she was going to be at, I was elated, walking on air. As I arrived, over coffee and breakfast bits, I spilled something on my blouse, a silk ruffled blouse, one of my favorites, and I thought, "Oh Lord, I'm going to hear Ellen Gilchrist today, maybe even get a chance to see her up close, and now look what I have done."I was upset and near tears at the very thought.

I went into the Ladies Room to use a paper towel and water and tried to get it out. I heard a woman say, "Here, let me help you." I said "Thank you," and when I looked up it was... yes, Ellen Gilchrist herself. I nearly fainted and was sure I uttered some kind of nonsense, falling all over myself praising her books. I was in my 30's and I think I swooned. She kind of laughed, and was very kind.

Her talk to a large crowd was so inspiring that I took notes, and cherished them for a long time. I shared them with my writing students. Sadly, they are long lost, or packed away with tons of paperwork and old teaching materials, but I will never forget that moment, and she was light, and full of peace, and there was a mystical energy about her, both as she cleaned the spot out of my blouse, and spoke to a vast crowd who hung on her every word.

There is something about her novels and short stories that are down to earth and yet hold a kind of magic. She writes about a lot of the same characters in different books at different stages in their lives and different sets of circumstances. You get to feel that you know these characters, and I was changed forever that day. That mystery does exist, in her writing, in her life, and in the circle of energy all around her. I learned a lot that day, and though it was long ago and I don't remember much that she spoke about, I have a feeling when I think about it that makes me tingle all over.

Last time I wrote about being in a fugue state. It waxed and waned for a long time and I was not able to write here. I have three blogs. This one, which is truly the work of my heart, very sensitive, comes from deep inside of me, and none of the pieces can be written quickly or often. The other two are lighter, more fun to write, and I can conjure up those pieces much more quickly. If I write less here, the writing goes fathoms deep, and as it swims to the surface it has the quality of the Magic 8 Ball I had as I child. You asked a question and turned it upside down, and up from the murky depths you would slowly see an answer. Yes, No, or Maybe. And the way it worked was that it came up so slowly you couldn't even see the answer at first, and then as it began to rise it was blurry, and finally it came to the top, just under the glass, and you could read the answer. I was mesmerized by this.

I have come to see that fugue state as a Magic 8 Ball kind of time. It is a time of uncertainty, a time where there is are unanswered questions, things unknown. It can be frightening and make one feel as though they are losing their footing. I was acutely aware that my Circadian rhythms were all askew and I fought it at first and then let myself slip peacefully into it. I stopped feeling guilty about sleeping so much, and just let myself float, drift, dream, and let the answers rise. When I first started coming out of this state it was like the 8-Ball, the answer was coming from the murky depths, and couldn't be rushed.

I lie almost asleep and when I was very still, my breath having slowed to that even, peaceful place, I felt circles of energy around my body. I thought what a mystical sacred time it was. Instead of being afraid or depressed I began to feel a portal opening inside, and I finally realized what was happening... my body needed to shut down to prepare for the crossing of the threshold of new experience.

My mother is very bad this weekend, and when she passes there will be dramatic changes in my life, most of them very good, but at 55 I will have to take on responsibilities I never have had to do, and it is scary. I think part of me was trying to shut down, and part of me was in the cocoon time, resting, preparing, wiggling my way out of my old form, sitting too naked and wet to leave the cocoon. I am not, yet, all the way out, but I am drying out, less afraid, stretching and moving about and learning about my new form. I am getting ready to cross through the portal and take on the mantle of my new duties and responsibilities, and sometimes it makes me breathless, and at other times I feel a bit of excitement fluttering in the pit of my stomach.

The thing is, these changes will not happen until my mother passes and when I feel those flutters, I feel guilty. I don't want my mother to die, but I can't stand to see her in such pain, weakening, turning toward the place of reality that I'm not sure she even realizes but I have felt it in our last conversations. She sleeps more than she is awake. Just as I am coming out of my fugue state, I believe she is moving into hers. She, too, is getting ready to walk through another portal into a land unknown. She is a woman of deep faith, she is not afraid to die, but still nothing can prepare us for what lies on the other side, and we won't know until we get there.

We are both, my mother and I, preparing to cross our own thresholds, moving toward our own paths that are both scary and uncertain. As my mother moves toward the sleep that will take her to another land, my Circadian rhythms are normalizing and I am beginning to wake up. I've barely taken a nap this week, writing all day and making lists and doing internal preparation. It is a time when we will both launch into flight, passing each other as we move in opposite directions, or so I imagine, and I hope, for a single moment, we can touch fingertips as we pass. My mother is dying, and at 55 I am moving toward a kind of awakening and beginning to fully live in a way I never have. At the same time it is almost too much, and yet I come closer and closer to being ready.

We are both, my mother and I, circling around the time when we will will float toward the turning time, like a turn-style going into a building. One of us is going out and another going in and I'm not sure which one of us is going in which direction, but I know that there is movement now, and that the time is almost here.

I feel a glow like candlelight, a gentle light, soft, so as not to hurt my eyes. I squint and try to see through to what is on the other side, but it is too soon. Closer and closer I come and I feel my human form, changing and nearly ready, begin to circle and prepare to land, like an airplane approaching the runway. As I land my mother's spirit will take flight into a place I cannot know.

Watching my mother in her final days, though I am heartbroken to see her so sick and in pain, knowing that she is tiring of being so ill all the time as she said on the phone today, and yet knowing that she is ready and preparing herself to take that final step, I become less and less afraid of death, both hers and mine. But watching her near this point, it makes me realize how quickly time passes and how we can so easily squander the life we have been given. At 55 I feel more alive than I have ever been. I am getting lighter. I have lost 40 pounds. I am changing in so many directions at once I don't even have words to explain it, and it is far too private a journey to share. I have shared the outer journey, things like looking for a house and a car and preparing for life's necessities in the time ahead, but the inner journey and how it will manifest in the time ahead is the most important part. I shall not share it. It is mine alone.

And so my mother and I are in a time of preparation and grace. The time is coming near, and I believe we are both almost ready for our journeys, changed forever, and exactly where we should be.

Be not afraid. We are guided toward that perfect light. Life is illuminated by a mystical cloud of unknowing, but soon we shall both know, and we will both arrive on opposite sides of the threshold. Fugue states will come and they will go, but I am no longer afraid of them, for I see them for what they are, times of deep transformation.

I am ready. I am ready.