Saturday, January 23, 2010


I awoke this morning with angst. I am leaving Boston and heading back to my cabin in the woods. I have been impatient about being here feeling like I am wasting time and not engaged. Generally my only life here is the family and I don't make decisions or initiate anything, I just tag along. I sometimes feel like I am 80 or 90 years old. So I was surprised to feel the sadness and heart ache at the thought of separation that came a week prior to departure. I feel it on the other end when I am leaving the cabin heading to Boston.

I am fond of saying that this family is the one I know is mine since I grew up in a family where I felt out of place. I was not my father's child. This family I know is mine as I know where my daughter came from and who her father is and I feel apart of her life.

My journey back to the cabin is usually fraught with some anxiety. I am reminded of the Pharaoh in "Josepf and His Brothers" who always comes back to his home, asking, "Is everything well in the household" always afraid his wife had been unfaithful. I am always afraid that the home power system will be down, or the water off, or neighbors will have moved in or my environment will be altered. Such fears about water and power are real, but hoping the environment is unaltered is a free floating anxiety since I am helpless to stop change or return things to the statis quo.

This time I have the weather as a concern. The main winding mountain road is closed due to a landslide and all the side roads are snowed in. I am coming back with a truck load of furniture and though I have four wheel drive, it won't get me through 3 feet of snow. My dog is with a friend and I haven't room to bring him back also. My Internet service is down and the satellite dish that provides my contact with the outside world needs moving and that has been impossible to arrange before I get there.

These anxieties are of a different nature than the angst of leaving this warm "home" with small children and adults I love. But each end of the trip is painful. The plane flight itself--the discomfort of the seating, the tin can with wings bouncing occasionally in turbulence with only icy sky and no air outside the small oval window, the packed like sardines breathing other people's breath experience is, if you ignore or accept those fact of your extreme discomfort and your possible immanent death, a kind of limbo transition between worlds, a being in suspended animation. You feel it at the touch down when suddenly every one's personality comes back to them and they begin to cell phone or chat or show their impatience or excitement.

It's a strange life I lead now traveling between two different coasts. And it will probably continue until the grandchildren are old enough that they stop thinking that grandma is cool, but instead see her as an old woman they have to be polite to when they are impatient to be with their own friends. At that time I can get the trips to Boston down to maybe once a year with a reciprocal trip from them yearly also. Who knows? Life seldom follows the plans you have set out for it so better enjoy it the way it is.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On Death

I had a major dream last night about wanting to find someone to talk with about death. I found Gisino, a neighbor. He was in a room talking with someone else and I go in and wait for a while, but then leave. Then I am in his workshop and we are talking about our lives. I say when I grew up everyone was poor and no one thought anything about it. It was a much more peaceful time, although WWII was on. And then I awake to remember that Gisino is dead which startles me. We were the same age and both had had cancer, although different kinds, at the same time.

I have just recovered from the stomach flu. I spent one night all night alternately and sometimes simultaneously vomiting and pooping. My granddaughter had it a week before me and was fine the next day. I was not fine the next day and the lag time of my full recovery made me remember how it was possible sometime to get sick and the lag time of recovery instead fades into death. The kids say I have been brooding, but it is hard to talk to anyone about such things unless they are my age and not in denial. There is the famous dharma story about a god or guru who comes to earth and is asked what is the most amazing thing in the world and the god/guru replies that although everyone is going to die, no one talks about it.

I stepped out of my usual more participatory role in the household and coasted along, just being an observer. To my surprise, I saw this subtle program of mine that something needed to be fixed in this family and I needed to take care of fixing it. I realized there was nothing to fix. Everything was working just fine. It was a loving nurturing family. That was a shock but a very sweet shock and an insight I am grateful for.

But after my first well day, I dreamed of Gisino and awoke to awareness of death. I felt that death rules our lives yet we pay no attention to it. I felt I should bow to death every morning on awakening to acknowledge its reality and the fact that this small splinter of awareness of body and world will disappear. It gives my view another perspective. When I thought I was dying from cancer, there was a quickening sense of the preciousness of life. My actions were more informed by the understanding that hating or holding grudges is a waste of energy which could be better used enjoying life and loving. Don Juan suggested that death was always over his left shoulder. That is the context in which I wish to live.

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