Grief and Loss

It is with a sad and heavy heart that I share the news of our sweet cat Goncobe passing away this morning. We knew this was coming, and in fact scheduled a house visit to put him down tomorrow morning from the same vet who put down his brother Juba this same time last year, but nature took its course and he passed away on his own accord.

Just the other day, as I was reading through a book of poetry by Mary Oliver, I came across this lovely line, which says it all:

To live in this world,
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
 
Mary Oliver
 

What a blessing that Mike and I and Jaden were all able to be with him in his active dying phase this morning, just as we were all together when we picked him and his brother Juba up from the Humane Society as kittens in 2004, when Jaden was just 4-years-old. The two brother litter-mate kittens looked so much alike that only Jaden could tell them apart. Until we got to know them, Mike and I would constantly ask 4-year-old Jaden which one was which!

Grief has a way of slowing the bones of time. Such is the way today.

I wrote this earlier today while at Goncobe’s side, as his last breaths came in fits and spurts:

I cradle my sorrow like fragile eggs,
 hatching slowly in the nest of my heart.
Transfixed by the soft approach of light 
into an otherwise darkened place, 
through hairline fractures in the veil
 separating two worlds which serve as one, 
I reach out,
 crack myself open,
 and let my grief
 sing its rightful song.

Tender holding
 is what life asks for, 
in the moments before death.
 Tender holding,
 that is all. It is enough.

Please hold us in your heart during this time of mourning.

Nicole, Mike, and Jaden

Advertisements

Montana Open Way Sanghas Leadership Retreat

This past weekend, we had our first ever Montana Open Way Sanghas leadership and OI retreat (OI = order of interbeing, in the Plum Village Buddhist tradition). We also tried out a new retreat facility in Great Falls, Montana: the large and lovely Urseline Center, built in 1912.

 

Catholic in practice, the Urseline Center welcomes a variety of groups and programs into its space. We were very well taken care of. And what a treat to be surrounded by such history and craftsmanship. It was a treat to stay there and incredibly well-taken care of.

Here are a couple of things I penned in my journal early Saturday morning:

The quality of silence inside this elder building, is a sound I dearly savor and admire. Still, at 4:50am, a songbird’s morning trill penetrates the thick walls of brick and stone and reached with grace my countenance. Every bit of this place has been touched by someone’s faith or expression of God. And we, who dwell here for just a short sliver of time, are the ultimate and shining example.

_______

If you listen carefully,
with full attention and full presence
and full breath,
the harmonious choir of religious views
can be heard, resounding
in the hearts of the people.

This morning,
I walked slow, steady, and singing
around the pews of a 1912 Chapel.
In the third row,
I folded down the padded kneeling bench,
kneeled and joined my palms.
I connected with the church of my youth
and prayed.

I prayed to an energy
I neither understand or personally resonate
yet still find great and lovely movement in,
through those seeking guidance
on how to live well, with great kindness.

It was here, on my knees,
that I heard the ancient sound:
the harmonizing choir of all religious views,
lending their voices together
in symphony.

 

Continue reading

Morning Meal Verse

Meet my morning meal verse.

Inspired by the Meal Contemplations in the Plum Village tradition, I wrote my own version. I invoke this particular verse only before my breakfast meal each day. For lunch and dinner, I shorthand it and simply use the first line.

 

Morning Meal Verse

This food is the gift of the whole universe,
the earth the sky and much hard and loving work.

May I keep my compassion alive by remembering
that there are many people who will not have enough to eat today;
who will suffer and die from starvation and malnutrition.

May I accept this food with reverence
and gratitude for the life I am afforded.

 

Reciting a verse before each meal, allows me to connect with the food in front of me in a conscious way, verses gobbling it up mindlessly on multi-tasking auto-pilot. It infuses a great deal of mindful energy into my daily routine. And it doesn’t take long at all to do it, just a few seconds is all.

Without these meal verses, it’s hella easy for me to take my food for granted.

If you’re interested in infusing a bit of mindful intention into your day, I would recommend the practice of using meal verses. Feel free to use the ones here or come up with your own. For me, it’s an important way to stay in contact with my aspiration to be more connected, skillful, and kind.

 

Spoken Word

This morning, I finished a new spoken word piece called Turning 40. Spoken word is the performance art of poetry, so it translates better in person verses on the page, but here it is anyway :)

Also, it’s worth mentioning that in my spoken word repertoire, this piece is by far the shortest. But sometimes, short and sweet and to the point just makes good sense.

Turning 40

I’m not interested in towing the heavy, lead-laden line given to me by those who’ve come before. The one that says I shouldn’t be on good terms with aging – ya know, the one that says I should pretend to be some other age than I actually am and would do well to color up over all this grey hair coming in.

The one that says I should learn creative ways to outstretch my neck or gain an affinity for scarves to cover up the fact that I have folds and that I lose my sexual allure the further I drift from the shores of 18.

You’re welcome to keep towing that line but I’m not interested. I am setting it down, in favor of something…more.

I wanna tow the line that says aging is part of life and not separate; I wanna end the drama filled strife by pursuing a life based on responses and not reactions; I wanna water the seeds of mad love for the whole of things and not split it up into fractions; and I wanna swim naked in the waters of whatever age I’m kicking in and embrace my body, the whole damn thing.

cuz there ain’t no shame in not being a size 2, there’s shame in playing the beauty-looks-like-this game that no one wins. I’m fixin’ to tow a different line, saddle up if you’re in cuz I’m not sweatin’ turning 40, I’ve been enjoying the ride since 1979 and I love this mixed-bag world – and for what it’s worth, I’m interested in towing the line of being more than a pretty girl.

One month from turning 40

In one month from today,
I’ll turn forty.
Does that mean something?
I think it might.

I think it might mean
bidding a fond farewell to a decade of time
book-ended by zeros
and ushering in a new one,
as though it were a crisp,
unwrinkled, never worn gown
to slip into and dance on
endlessly into the night.

Everything that meant anything important
I’ve learned so far,
I’ve learned from unlearning something else.

Like how love means letting go
not holding on,
and a life filled with meaning
has little to do with money.
Or how kindness is a superpower
not a weakness,
and angling towards joy
doesn’t mean to ignore the darkness,
it means to not ignore the light.

I have inherited a body of knowledge
not my own –
a body of paper skin and earthen bones, too.
Flawed, perfect,
scarred, broken, perfect.
Did I mention perfect?

There is nothing on this splendid,
spinning, blue-green marble planet,
strung like a pearl on its cosmic necklace,
that wasn’t supposed to happen,
simply for the fact that it did.

If my years so far could be distilled
into one sentiment worth mentioning,
it would be this:
To live a well-contented life,
it’s crucial to stop fighting.

To stop fighting:
Sickness
Aging
Death.

To stop fighting with the truth of how every single thing –
and every single one of us, our self included –
is of the nature to change.

Stone, Concrete, Earth

I flung open the door this morning –
both the door to start this ripe new day
and the actual door, serving as a boundary
between my slate floor kitchen and the concrete steps,
which when taken lead to the ground,
where all things manifest and are made possible.

Stone, concrete, earth –
all things, no matter how seemingly solid,
can break into shards.

Take this day, for example.
There’s no guarantee we’ll remain intact
by the end of it.

This day, just starting to unfold,
like an origami crane returning to its original paper state,
to be refolded as the day goes on
perhaps into another shape,
might very well be the end of it.