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On May 23, my sweet friend Marja departed from this life. She was courageous, graceful, thoughtful and humble. A deeply spiritual woman–mother, sister, daughter, wife, friend. She let go gradually and, in the process, she brought together a community. She planned her own memorial service which included a farewell letter to all who were assembled to celebrate her life. Her message was embodied in her son’s performance of “Let it Be.”

I have entered the time of life when good-byes are increasing. When the reality of impermanence is inescapable. When I am learning more and more how to love what is mortal and when the time comes, to let it go.

IN BLACKWATER WOODS

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
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 –

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INTO OCTOBER

These must be the colors of returning
the leaves darkened now but staying on
into the bronzed morning among the seed heads
and the dry stems and the umbers of October
the secret season that appears on its own
a recognition without sound
long after the day when I stood in its light
out on the parched barrens beside a spring
all but hidden in a tangle of eglantine
and picked the bright berries made of that summer

– W.S. MERWIN –

Recently I received a note from an “Inner Edger.” It was a kind inquiry–checking to see if I was okay; looking for a fresh post. I was both touched and inspired. I responded first by posting and then with a personal email of thanks for the concern. Below is a portion of the response to my email.

Your words and heart and path truly seemed to touch others in an important way. Why will you not post on a regular basis?  Can that be part of your posting? We all have lots going on…..but connection to others, known and unknown, is like a ripple in a pond.

I hope you will try to find to keep up your connections to the “Inner Edges.”

It’s so true. We all have lots going on. We are preoccupied in so many ways. Not long ago I looked back through my blog and was surprised by how much I had forgotten about my own life. Small moments, captured in a photo or a poem. Things that mattered, since faded and replaced by now, and now, and now. Knowing that perhaps those moments can touch another human being often fails to occur to me. So thank you, Peggy…thank you for urging me on and reminding me that we are all connected by visible and invisible bonds. I’ll do my best!

PS…to stay current, you can click the RSS feed in the URL box…

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This morning I snapped awake at 5:01 a.m. I knew that Arlene was dying. The phone didn’t ring until 9:04. Maria simply said, “She’s gone.”

Last Wednesday, I spent the afternoon with Avi. She was nauseous and had spent the night throwing up. Still, she was eyeing a slice of cold pizza–wanting and not wanting to eat it. We sat together in her living room with her husband and the Hospice Social Worker. She was, as always, checking to be sure that everyone was comfortable–was the temperature okay, did we want pizza, should we turn the fan off?  She got up several times, was somewhat confused and clearly in pain.

On Saturday morning, I spent time with Avi and her husband and sister in the Emergency Room. She still smiled when she saw me and when I took her hand, she kissed my hand. She was tired and barely coherent.

Later, after visiting my Dad, I went back to the hospital. By this time, she had been admitted and had a private room. She was resting peacefully and gave me a faint smile of recognition and squeezed my hand. I sat with her in silence and then told her that it was okay to let go. That she could breathe and relax and allow herself to be completely loved by the heart of the universe. I knew when I left that it was the last time that I would see her.

This morning I sat alone with her body and spirit. I sang to her and felt her energy close at hand. We had talked about this moment many times. I promised that I would come and sit with her after her death wherever she was. I thought about all the goodbyes that we must say in this lifetime and about all that Avi taught me about living and about dying. Before her diagnosis, she knew that she had cancer. After her first round of treatment, her remission and her recurrence, we spent every Wednesday morning together from 10 to noon. I learned about her joys, her sorrows, her fears, her regrets, her family, her Hospice work, her faith and her doubt.

I once read about a tribe in Africa where when someone dies, the community gathers in remembrance and decides who will take on that person’s sense of humor, and their way of telling a story, and perhaps their way of cooking or dancing or singing. Their commitment is to keep the person alive in spirit. I, for one, aspire to take on Avi’s tender and generous heart and her sensitivity to the suffering of others.

Avi, you will always be remembered. I picked these flowers from my garden for you.

“No coming, no going,
No after, no before.
I hold you close to me,
I release you to be so free,
Because I am in you,
And you are in me…
Because I am in you,
And you are in me…”

– PLUM VILLAGE CHANTING BOOK –

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Early this morning…a walk with my dear friend Sunny and our canine companion Elvis. Black Rock Forest, our personal sanctuary, vibrant with autumn. Sharp air, tasting, smelling sweet, tangy, moist. We stood in silence and watched the trees breathing. Watched a single leaf clinging, spinning, not yet willing to acknowledge gravity’s law, aging or impermanence. Our pact: Stay vibrant until we aren’t and then let go with grace.

How surely gravity’s law
strong as an ocean current
takes hold of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing—
each stone, blossom, child—
is held in place
Only we, in our arrogance
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrender
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things
because they are in God’s heart
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us
to fall
patiently to trust our heaviness
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

– RILKE –

(Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God,
translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

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It might have started with Grace…

But then, I know that great minds think alike…

So, it’s quite possible that there was spontaneous combustion–Sara and Grace tend to think along the same lines when it comes to parties and celebration…

And then, there’s Rod and Dashiell…now, that’s a celebration in itself!!

Not to mention Kathleen and Shamim…AND, a host of other friends and family members who not only surprised me–more like AWED me–with a 60th Birthday Party that was beyond memorable! The generous outpouring from so many dear people in my life…the kindness…the memories…the gifts…I am filled with a deep sense of abundance! My blessings are numberless. I’m entering my sixth decade with joy, excitement and gratitude!

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you…

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These autumn days have been incredibly beautiful. Crisp air, clear skies, golden afternoons…a good time to visit the farm with my little friend, Madeleine.

The important thing is to find a pumpkin…

And, of course, chase the hens…

And then we have to check on those bunnies…

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So, why were we in The Hamptons? Well, come on inside and meet some more of our old and new friends…

New friends Brian and Piper…

As you can see, we were preparing to celebrate…

Our “old” friends…Rachel and Kenny…getting the picture?

Wedding cake, anyone?

They say, “The family that cooks together…”

Let’s ask the MOB (Mother of the Bride)…

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