Archive for July, 2008


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Last night, a meditation intensive at Yoga School. We talk about “sky meditation.” Gazing into a cloudless sky; breathing; gathering clarity; closing eyes; breathing; opening eyes; gazing into a cloudless sky… When I leave, the sky looks like this and I feel spacious and expansive. There is something about knowing that my sixtieth birthday is on the horizon. Hard to define or name. Perhaps I am shaking hands with Mortality. Small things seem important. Urgency, not in a pressured way, is my new friend. Self-reflection has a kindly tone. I read an article–a book review–that says dying people only say four things: Thank you. I love you. I forgive you. Forgive me. Life seems that simple to me. I am reading Mary Oliver’s new collection of poems, Red Bird. So lovely. An economy of words. Precise and true. WHO SAID THIS? Something whispered something that was not even a word. It was more like a silence that was understandable. I was standing at the edge of the pond. Nothing living, what we call living, was in sight. And yet, the voice entered me, my body-life, with so much happiness. And there was nothing there but the water, the sky, the grass. – MARY OLIVER –

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Yesterday, at least eight phone calls from my Dad. Running the gamut from distraught, confused, irritated, lonely, delusional to grateful. I make the trip across the county, thinking of how he looks smaller each time I see him. His skin like translucent parchment, veins bulging in his wrists and hands, his childlike delight when he sees me…”Oh, Sandy…bless you for coming!”

I tell him that Grace made it to Myanmar without a hitch; that she is the youngest and least experienced person in her group and she says that the country and the people are beautiful. Yesterday, they visited a nunnery and she was invited to sit at the head table–something unheard of–and was blessed by the nuns and invited to return. He smiles, nods his head and says, “That dear little Gracie girl…of course.”

Lately he asks me, “Where am I going from here?” Or, “What’s next for me?” I’m learning to smile and say, “We’ll see, Dad…I’m not sure.” In reality, I’m not sure whether this is a metaphysical question or just a question of logistics. When I leave we repeat our ritual farewell. I say, “I’ll see you soon.” He says, “I hope so.”

Outside, a swallowtail butterfly lands on the pink coneflowers. I breathe and let go more…and more…


The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light


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Over the course of the last week, I’ve been in a state…somewhere between frantic, overwhelmed, delighted, excited, afraid and just plain busy. By the time yesterday rolled around, I was literally making lists of my lists and, frankly, having missed several yoga classes, I was totally off center.

Imagine sending your 23 year old daughter halfway across the world to a cyclone ravaged country during monsoon season where she will be traveling with complete strangers and have no phone connection for two weeks. Okay, okay, let me re-phrase:

(A) I’m not sending her…she’s going of her own accord.

(B) This is a phenomenal opportunity and actually I’m very excited.

(C) Notice that although I took my camera with me to bid her farewell, I couldn’t bear to take any pictures!

Some people hate the “empty nest” thing. It’s not that for me. For starters, with one son left living at home, I’m still waiting to experience it. Some people freak when their kids go to college or camp or wherever. That’s not me…they’ve been to Cuba, Prague, Paris, Italy, Costa Rica–I love that!

This is different. It’s an understated rite of passage. It’s a whole-body letting go in the biggest way. And I haven’t been very graceful. Somewhere along the line, I made a decision that I don’t work well under pressure. When I am stressed, I loose things, I forget things, I make mistakes and small problems on the front end, morph into massive problems later on. So, of course, I do my best to get out in front of it all–it’s a little control strategy designed to quell my fear, which, I must say isn’t workin’ all that well for me.

So, I helped to gather flash drives, memory cards, Cliff Bars, insect repellent, Pepto Bismol tablets, gauze pads, Duck Tape, Shamwows, XXL Ziplock bags, iodine tablets, stuff sacks, Airborne, silica gel packs, Sharpies, Tylenol, TSA locks, luggage tags, unmarked bills, sunscreen, adhesive tape, band aids, moleskin, scissors, lip balm, wick dry socks, kleenex, hand sanitizer, Panda Red Licorice, almonds, guide books, spare batteries, cables, DVD’s, etc.

Knowing it was all organized and packed last night did not prevent me from sitting bolt upright at 4 am and giving up on sleep by 5. My first big sigh of relief came at 7:16 am. when Grace called to report that her bag weighed just under 70 lbs; second sigh of relief came at 7:32 am when she called to say she was at her gate; third sigh of relief came at 4:39 pm. when she emailed from Heathrow…tomorrow, hopefully a call from Bangkok or Myanmar…

Learning…slowly…to let go…surrender…pray…AND CELEBRATE!

…Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(the world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound…


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I implore you,
it’s time to come back
from the dark,

it’s morning,
the hills are pink
and the roses
whatever they felt

in the valley of night
are opening now
their soft dresses,
their leaves

are shining.
Why are you laggard?
Sure you have seen this
a thousand times,

which isn’t half enough.
Let the world
have its way with you,
luminous as it is

with mystery
and pain—
graced as it is
with the ordinary.


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4. (From Sometimes)

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.


Married eighteen years. Recently astonished. My husband is now asking ME in the morning if I’m ready to meditate! This is sheer joy! We stretch and do some yoga if there is time and then sit out on the deck (weather permitting…which it mostly does) and attune to bird sounds, wind, warmth of the sun, daybreak smells. Never in my wildest dreams…or, only in my wildest dreams…Now, I’m telling about it! I love this man.

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Twenty-four years ago this month, my daughter Grace was born at home. Dear friends Ross and Deb celebrated by bringing a small Red Ramblin’ Rose bush to plant in her honor. We dug a deep hole, placed her placenta at the bottom and planted the rosebush on top.

Years later, when that house was sold, I dug up irises, peonies, bleeding hearts, columbine, and, of course, Grace’s rose and transported them across the county to put down roots here by the Hudson River. Each year, her rosebush has gotten bigger and bigger and it now has completely taken over one side of the garden. This year, the blooms were spectacular–ten feet high, arching out over the pond.

I think of this tonight as I read the Packing Checklist for her trip to Myanmar. This girl who loves to travel will soon be a world away–far from cell phones, internet, blow dryers, ATM machines, subways. She’ll need Iodine and Neutralizer Tablets, Loperamide, Cipro and Malarone. It will be Monsoon season and the light will be incredible…she’ll have her camera and her eye…she’ll be learning, living in community and becoming a world citizen…she’ll be blooming.

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