Dear Early Morning,
The other day, my alarm roused me from slumber at 5:02am, for the first time in a long while, as lately I’ve been waking up on my own accord much earlier. And my first thought was: Shoot! I slept in!
I have a wish to draw you out for as long as possible, these days, like the warm, slow drag of one’s last cigarette or perhaps, more appropriately, like a masterful song I never want to end, as a cigarette connotes a distasteful vice, whereas music can be translated into the heart of all beings.
You are the fragrant waters I bathe in, rendering me anew each day; the magnetic north I set my compass to, so that I may stay the course and not run aground.
You are the dance I fall into with the whole of everything I’ve got – and you catch me and cradle me with the arms of orchestral silence.
Like cups of earthen tea, you soothe and aliven me in a way no one and nothing else can. And the more I bask in your unfolding, the more my grit and static evaporate like mist, uncovering all that remains.
With all the love I can shake up,
Category Archives: Creative Writing
On Saturday, while standing in line at the Good Food Store (our local organic food market), I overheard the dude in front of me telling the cashier that he was going to see the new Star Wars movie. In the interest of working on my small talk/social engagement skills, I chimed in: “Oh, there’s a new Star Wars movie out, eh?” To which he replied – friendly enough, but still incredulously – “Where have you been? Under a rock?!”
How do I respond? I pondered internally. Hmm.
After a brief pause – quickly deciding that it was not at all the direction I wanted to tread in to toss back some kind of sarcastic barb about how when I read the world news, other more pressing matters are thankfully covered than what’s hot at the box office – I said: “I like rocks! It’s kind of nice under there.”
This is such a frequent occurrence! We use unskillful words and judgemental tones of voice based on our ongoing assumptions that the reality of those around us is the same as our own. It never ceases to amaze me how potent our choice of words really is and how big of a difference it makes to develop a kind disposition when speaking.
May we all practice – myself super included! – to watch what we say and how we say it. Too often, we just speak and have little to no idea of what it is we’re saying and why it is we’re talking. It’s really important to know that we spread the seeds of either benefit or harm in every word we offer – and don’t offer.
Words matter. Truly.
Let us be good to one another and use words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope and help foster the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood in our wake.
To hear this love poem being read: https://soundcloud.com/inmindfulmotion/montana
Montana is the blanket I wrap myself in when I have a hard time sleeping,
the warm elixir soothing my weary bones
when the cold is all I can feel penetrating into the crux
of my rampant misgivings of what it means to be human.
Montana never fidgets from boredom or agitation and, like a lady,
always knows when it’s the proper time to look you in the eye
and when it’s time to turn away.
Montana can cradle an un-soothed babe and carry a cord of wood
in the same arms it fashions to unfurl the ties that bind our troubled ways –
it speaks in fluid solitude in the rhythm of rocks and rivers,
a native tongue down in the valley,
with unfolding fields preparing to flourish and wither on the same breath.
If death were to come calling for me tomorrow,
I’d take solace in knowing that Montana stole my heart as a girl,
and in learning how to love it back with the same ferocity in return,
I became the woman I am now.
Montana is the thread I’ve mended the tears of my past with,
the melody I sing when the very core of my teeth ache
in unison with the heartbreak of the people, and
the tonic I swallow to turn the dials of my internal static
to a station of higher frequency.
I plan on loving Montana as hard as I can,
as long as it will have me and as much as it can stand
until at last I crack wide open and melt into its roots,
the cycle of life renewed by all that I’ve absorbed.
Montana is an impossibly still lake I hold up as a mirror,
reminding me who I am and want to be –
a guide that holds my hand and whispers softly in my ear
which direction I should tread, and
like no one else,
is able to keep up with me.
Give or take a couple of years,
I’ve spent just shy of the last 20 of em here –
all my loves made and broken
in the fragrant tides of winter and spring,
beneath the great expanse of sky
spreading like a crow’s wings overhead.
And I reckon I’m head over hills still madly in love –
Montana is the ink in my pen I put to paper every morning,
the heat curving outwards from the fire,
smoothing my skin with warmth like a lover’s touch.
Montana is the drumming of my heartbeat,
the dance my hips sway to –
Montana is the monastery bell,
calling me like winter
Just this morning, I hopped onto the BBC world news online, where I clicked on an article about the current fire and state of emergency in San Diego, CA. Accompanying the article was a short video taken by a motorist who had captured footage of a man on the roadside next to a raging bank of flames, who was trying desperately to save a wild rabbit who was clearly in distress. After running into the flames, the rabbit came back out and the man was able to scoop it up and rescue it.
Tears streamed from my eyes.
The sheer fortitude and concern this man showed for that one tiny rabbit is a powerful example of our capacity to love.
We are made and built from each other’s company – whether in people, animal, or nature’s form. We rise and fall together.
May we stop running and keep loving. May we open our hearts wide like the sky at dawn.
The more we love people, the better we live. The better we live, the more we love.
So, let us love on – even when it’s hard. Even when we don’t want to. Even when we don’t know how.
It’s easy to extend love to those whom we choose to share our lives with – but it’s not so easy with those whom we do not see a commonality with. Our time is short. We have such little time to love with wild abandon. Stop guarding your heart.
Let us express gratitude to all those who circulate around us, whether dear to us or nameless. Let us radiate love to all who are situated in the wake of our heart’s beating. Our time is short. May we love with wild, unfettered abandon, regardless of the company we keep.
Every year, for the past I don’t know how many years (8? 10? 12?), I help with the set-up for the Tree of Life Ceremony, which is put on in early December by the hospice organization I volunteer for on a weekly basis, meeting with patients. This annual event is a time to remember our loved ones who’ve passed away, whether recently or many years ago. There’s a tree lighting ceremony that takes place in Rose Memorial Park, followed by a non-faith based service at St. Paul Lutheran Church, situated a few blocks away, and is concluded with a reception in their fellowship hall. The reception is stocked with typically over 100 dozen cookies that the staff & volunteers bake, warm beverages, and is a chance to peruse the banners (see pic above) we put together, which display the many names that community members have submitted in memory of those who’ve passed away. This year, we had over 900 names.
Yesterday, while helping with the set-up process for this event, I worked alongside a hospice staff member who shared with me the story of how she just moved to town not long ago at the request of her daughter, who was wanting her help in trying to get back to school, while raising young children and still recovering from a car accident that left her with brain trauma just under a year ago. Her daughter was stopped at a light here in town and hit by a texting driver, going 50- mph.
While arranging the names on the banners, I unexpectedly came across my grandmother’s name: Claire Carlson. My grandmother, still alive, is on hospice care in Arkansas. I spoke with her just the other day and was the last grandchild to do so. She’s expected to pass away in the next few days.
When I think of her, I think of watercolor paintings of flowers and landscapes on crisp white paper, framed by my grandfather, when he was alive. I think of the tomatoes she was forever growing in pots and how I used to steal candies from her nightstand – though, I suspect she knew full well and didn’t mind.
When I think of her, I think of summers spent at boardwalk art shows, a mixture of sun and sea coating my skin and tangling my long hair. When I think of her, I think of my grandfather, even though he’s been gone for over 15 years.
And I reckon she passed down her artistic flare to me, though my mediums are the written word and music. Still, it takes an artist to decode this one, richly given life in such a way where melodies can be heard and beauty can be seen in even the smallest drops of everyday. With an artist’s eye, I look out onto the world, misshapen with strife though it may be. I gaze in its direction as though it were a sunset or rise, a marvel of ingenuity on display.
When I think of her, I think of how fortunate I am, truly, to be here, now.
Sitting in a pew last night at the church, listening as the hospice chaplain and one of the bereavement coordinators shared skilled words of nourishment and support, I thought of the many friends I’ve had who’ve passed away, especially over the last couple of years. I thought of those who will pass away soon, such as both of my grandmothers. And I also thought of everyone I take for granted, thinking they will live another 30 or 40 years – all those I figure I will have an endless amount of time to absorb into my heart.
One thing I most appreciate about being a hospice volunteer is that in meeting with patients who are dying, it opens my eyes and my heart to those who are living around me, firm in the understanding that we can all go at any time. Befriending death allows me to befriend life.
Written in August, 2016:
I’d been visiting Al every Tuesday at 10:00am for over a year, before he passed away, 3 days ago. He was 91 years old, though he often liked to tell me he was 100. I never disagreed, as it seemed to bring him a wave of pride and pleasure to share with me the fact that he had reached triple digits. Besides, I figured, whether 91, 94, 97, or 100, they’re all milestones in my book, each one indicating having lived a long life.
Back in April, during one of our weekly visits, I decided it would be a good idea to jot down some of the things he said. I sat next to him with some paper and a pen and told him my intention. He found it humorous, and mildly baffling, that I wanted to record his Words of Wisdom, as I called it. He didn’t feel what he had to say was of any special value or worth remembering. But he obliged me just the same.
Here’s what I scribbled down that one day:
Your mental attitude is hooked to well being.
You don’t realize how you can mold your life.You are the one commander of your own mind and body.Don’t let it get away from you.
I still think of myself as a young man. Hell, you have to.
A smile will get you more friends than a grimace. You’ve got to smile at society.
Nothing in my life has been dead serious. Nothing can’t be changed.
Gray hair ain’t heavier to carry around – and they take less water.
When you get up in the morning, get a smile on your face.
He called this one Al’s Secret to Longevity: If you have a choice between making a friend or an enemy, always make a friend. I always figured it was better to make a friend.
Walk away from cranky people, they’ll affect you.
Carrying a grudge gets to be pretty solid after awhile.
Boy, it’s nice to be alive today.
In memory of Al, 1925-2016
This morning, on my way to turn on a small light to illuminate the darkness of 4:00am, my right foot rolled over something unfamiliar in the living room. It was a dead mouse – an offering no doubt thought worthy of praise, brought in through the cat door some time over the course of the night.
Later, at 4:47am, through a window I had cracked open to invite the cool air of pre-dawn in, an un-welcomed sound pierced the lovely quietude. A neighbor was outside somewhere close by, rehearsing their smoker’s cough in violent fits and starts.
And isn’t this the way of things? The unexpected, unpleasant stuff keeps happening. Yet, we hold out some kind of strange hope that it won’t. That maybe one day, when we’ve figured out the right alga-rhythm or when the stars align just so, the unexpected and unpleasant stuff will just stop happening. But it’s the darnedest thing: despite our strange hope, that stuff keeps happening.
Perhaps, then, it would serve us well to lay that strange hope down – to place it with care in an ornate box, close the lid, say a fond farewell, and then grab a shovel and bury the freakin’ thing in the woods.
Each time we cringe, ruffle, shutter, or wince is a calling and an invitation. A calling to return back home to ourselves in the here and now and an invitation to do the work it takes to cultivate a less friction-filled way of living and being.
A happy life is possible. But, it’s only possible when we create it for ourselves in the present moment and tend to its ongoing development.
As long as we’re in a state of waiting, as long as our happiness hinges on something or someone, our quality of life will remain in disagreeable flux, punctuated with bouts of great turmoil, upheaval, woe, struggle, stress, and hardship.
“Constantly apply cheerfulness, if for no other reason than because you are on this spiritual path. Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.”
– Pema Chodron, from Always Maintain a Joyful Mind
A joyful mind, like the almost full moon that sits aglow in the sky just outside, is always present, even when clouds of uncertainty, agitation or sorrow roll in. If well tended to, a joyful mind is indestructible and inexhaustible.
This I know for sure: we are all of the nature to die. And we would do well to view this day – each day – as precious, as we can all go at any time.
Live it up baby – take a risk – shine – do that thing you’ve been aching to do – put yourself out there and be one with not the many but the few who learn how to transform their situation from within.
The way I see it, love is the destination we set our compass to travel in, our collective destination with only new beginnings and no end, a path that swells, quakes, cracks, and bends in rhythm from the gravity of our own intentions.
We’ve grown unaccustomed to the fluid, grounded, rooted raw potency of her allure – we need to remedy our disconnection from her wisdom, view her not as separate but as an extension of who we are, and stand bare-footed in her graces.
On Stillness, Silence, Solitude, Sovereignty, and Slowing Down
The s-word tying all of these delicious, unfamiliar words together is spaciousness, which has to do with inserting slivers of conscious awareness in the heart of our being – an opening in the clouds that allows for the possibility of seeing things more clearly and then percolating amid what comes up.
Heaviness is stifling and lightness of disposition is a virtue and I’d rather laugh at myself for looming in the fray of upheaval then berate myself for being human in the may-lay of every day’s ups and downs. Life is too short to take it so seriously – disregard all that you’ve found that doesn’t jive with this philosophy, in order to make the art of letting go pave the road of life’s amazing journey.