Saturday, July 26, 2014


Our usual warm-weather-low-humidity has turned like a child looks back to see if someone familiar is near. In the Pacific NW rain magically ceases soon after Fourth of July and doesn’t reappear until late September/October. But our light sweater July evenings have dissolved into two days of November downpour and I feel cheated. Where has summer gone? Will it reappear?

Our yucca plants produced their white bell blossoms early and with extravagance. They were glorious for days, reluctantly dropping petals as they dried on the stock. Our neighbors’ plants were not so long enjoyed. The rain force bent the stems or denuded them. Their short season concluded face down in the mulch.

Unseasonable weather reminds me of a metaphor hidden in an Asian figure:
Talk about tomorrow
the rats will laugh

Assuming, hoping against hope, continuing in spite of, planning with no guarantees, are conditions of our mortality amid storm-beaten flowers, nurturing rain, changeable weather systems.  
In front of the wooden yucca stocks, the iris greenery feed their tubers. Spiking gladiolas are turning a shade of coral I would not have chosen. Mortality and death are complicated subjects. 

by Robert Frost

Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question 'Whither?'

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?



Sunday, July 20, 2014


Sumptuous Mortality

Children’s veranda in the
lowbreathed summer twilight:
‘if I should die before I wake’ lingers
erosive     engraving

O     not alone     ‘my soul to take’.
The sweetjuice hay of nightbreath
smothers in luxury. Who doesn’t
burrow into being
deaf to not-life for

sleep, a time of sleep.
A handkerchief of waiting daylight blown
in esperance: enough.

Margaret Avison. Always Now. Volume Two.


What is our life expectancy? We look at ancestors who died in their 40s, early 60s, 80s. We consider the conditions of their living and passing, and extrapolate our years through the statistics of our improved nutrition and health care and presume we will live…more.

As children we kneeled by our beds and prayed the historic prayer, pushed ourselves up to slide over the sheet, dusting our bare feet off one on the other. Curled in the dark we silently amended the prayer, but not for a long time if you please.  The many versions first recorded in the 1800s are basically the same but they differ in the last two lines.  “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take” seems a heavy burden for a nine year old. Less Catholic prayers exhort angels to watch over me, or simply pray for safe guidance through the night. Considering the various plagues from which children in the 1800s died, any of the versions would suffice.

On Sunday night as we mentally move into the demands of Monday morning, we scarcely consider our death. We prepare to commence another week of busyness and stress. But a friend reminds me on Facebook that she has survived cancer and achieved another birthday. Others have not. Bear with me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

Our neighbors have two toddlers, ages 2 and 4, who hurtle themselves across the lawn, down the driveway, onto our cul de sac, full tilt with seemingly no other intention than to move as fast as possible. There is no more mindfulness in their actions than the peony that drops deep pink petals on the hedge. 

In contrast, one of our seniors walks carefully one foot before the other, trailing her hand along the wall.

Transitional movement transfers us from one place to another. A toddler must learn to make that transference while keeping his balance. As he lifts his back foot leaning toward forward motion, he is unbalanced. If his concentration falters, his heavily diapered bottom stays aloft only as long as he hesitates, then falls.

The present slips so quickly from future to past. Whatever our movement, it helps our balance as we transition if we give our full attention to what we are doing in the moment. Then we can look back and appreciate that we were fully involved in our life. Not merely spending time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mindful Living

As I’m writing this, it’s a blue sky, cool morning in Washington. The fog of winter months has evaporated into joyous clear air of summer opening our vista across the bay and to the distant mountains on the Canadian border. The sparrows and finches flutter at each other above the feeder before settling to take turns. Early swallows feed on the wing.

And as I observe the activities of a natural world, I ask myself, what do I do without thinking about it, without due process but move on automatic pilot? What would change if I focused on the elements of a task, just for a few specks of time, to observe them as a child who is first learning?

The energies around me change their intensity, ebb and flow like the tide washing higher on the beach, hiding the small creatures busy finding food and avoiding becoming a meal. Energies that collect the fragments of me into a vessel to be of use. My energies also change as demands are placed on me by others or I decide that something has become necessary rather than optional.

Attempting rootedness in the moment frustrates me because as soon as I breathe in the moment, I must exhale and that chosen space of time has evaporated as quickly as fog. As much as I want to stay, my mental list of wonderful potential pulls me away, like walking an unruly puppy.

But I am grateful for the moment, for each breath as I take a last turn through our residents’ rooms, observing them sleep, the rise and fall of their blankets. I failed them in small ways through lack of energy or distraction. But also today I paused to glance out the front window to observe the hummingbird flit around the purple glass flame on its pole; I mindfully listened to the frustrated silence of people who have no choice but to internalize rather than risk garbled speech. We created moments of joy feeding our people with our their favorite food, hugs and conversation.

And I pause, mindful that I live as fully and with as much presence as I can manage at any given interval in my life. At the end of the day, that must be my peace.