The Trip Not Taken

Diary 9/12/21                                 

On September 13th 2001, my husband and I planned to leave for our meticulously planned two-week trip to Tuscany. It had been a delightful destination for him when he had gone years before with a male friend of ours. It had seemed the perfect place to celebrate my fiftieth birthday. We had to plan meticulously because although I was more mobile with my MS compromises twenty years ago, I still would have required a wheelchair for lengthy walking. And a wheelchair meant not having to traverse too many quaint cobblestone streets which meant a careful itinerary to share with me at least a few of his favorite locations and some brand-new ones. We found online international support for free wheelchairs to use on arrival at the airport. The map of Italy we had folded and unfolded to travel each road with our fingers was left worn and tattered during the months before the much-anticipated event.

September 11th. All flights were cancelled. Our friends in Europe, giving workshops or traveling, were frantic to come back home. Even if we had been able to fly out in in a few days’ time, it would have cut enough into our already short vacation time to render it moot. Every single Italian host and hostess in every venue refunded all of our deposits. There was a warm swathe of caring for Americans during this tragedy. They did not forget how many Americans had supported them and died during the war.

Besides, Richard and I both had psychotherapy clients directly and indirectly affected by this event. Calls started coming in over the next few weeks to begin coping with the unimaginable. Because Richard also had a Manhattan practice as well as the one we shared in upstate New York, a flood of new referrals kept calling him. Anxiety, despair, depression, grief, illness, rage, and PTSD all required his care. What was the loss of a balloon ride over vineyards and olive orchards landing in a field with a champagne breakfast compared to the losses endured in this deliberately public act of mass slaughter?

My father died in a car accident seventy years ago on the eleventh of September. I was born eleven days after he died with over one hundred bones broken in his body. My personal history of loss resurfaced for a while in the aftermath. Grief was heavy in the air along with the fumes of a desire for vengeance, a justifiable retaliation for The Enemy. The chaos of that time bleeds into the current situation of ever more catastrophic losses. Biden has touted the unity of our nation after 9/11. But the widely differing seeds of action to address terrorism were already there. The “patriotic” call for hate and violence vs. the call for genuine national/international political self-reflection for viable boundaries and repair was simmering. It boiled over into an ongoing largely fruitless war which further mucked up our image on the world stage. The long war cost the lives of many more thousands of civilians “over there” as well as leaving thousands of our own soldiers dead or maimed for life.

Those same divisions in the need for action now show up in our ‘war’ against each other with the foe being a deadly virus. Who do we hate, who do we blame, to whom do we deny any impulse of understanding, who do we manipulate into being an ally made in our image? How do we grab what we can while we can? How do we manage our own affairs, dire as they are? There are no easy, no quick, answers.

I do have faith that there is an order in the universe. Much of the time, I am as blind and wounded and overwhelmed as anyone in knowing where that coherence may be found. During the planetary chaos we are creating, it is only clear that each of us must find a center we can trust, hold to and act from. Surrendering to that point of singularity, the still stable point of infinite potential within myself, within us all, is the most important journey there is for me. May we be guided by Love in action.

Though in retrospect, I must say that our envisioned trip to Tuscany was the best trip that I never took. Despite the terrible associations, I still remember it fondly.

Another Anniversary

8/8/21

This morning I woke up feeling inexplicably happy. I don’t believe that I’ve heard a recommended time limit for widows to stop memorializing their wedding anniversary. Our wedding itself I have described in an earlier anniversary blog. I clearly remember several other special anniversary celebrations – our fifteenth in the backyard of our home in Red Hook N.Y. was a particularly joyful one with our older daughter and her cousins dashing around, and the one where Richard and I renewed our vows to one another inside the circle of hemlock bushes that were barely knee high in back in 1970. When we held a private recommitment ceremony, climbing back up the familiar wooded hillside in Shady, NY, the hemlocks were towering over us in their frothy greenery. Our fortieth was when we introduced our new son-in-law to our friends who didn’t attend the Texas wedding….well, there were all the other parties and special dinners on this date in August. I was always sure we’d at least reach our sixtieth anniversary, given that we were so young when we were married.

And that was not to be. Today is what would have been our fifty-first anniversary. I look at Richard’s photo taken in his fifties on the summit of Mt. Blanc straddling France, Italy, and Switzerland and I summon his visceral warmth through seeing his intensely present gaze. Dutch friends of ours had invited us to stay with them in their vacation home in France to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary and this picture I have on my bedside table was snapped by our friend Daphne on a daytrip to the mountain overlooking the entire area. It was our last big vacation and a joyful occasion to celebrate relationships.

Today, I am reflecting on the nature of love. The intimate dance of a marriage over years of sincere hard work tracks the growth of us as individuals and how we nurtured both of us within the partnership. To have been schooled in that university with Richard was such a gift. We received from and gave to each another in equal measure. Our strengths and weaknesses became less and less the focus of how to love and be loved. We cultivated the belief that love between us could become less conditional based on our behaviors, and more of a constant anchor, a given mutual well of sweet water always available to draw upon. As I was more and more challenged by my chronic declining health, we learned to navigate some rough roads. Parenting two very different daughters pulled us together as our priorities shifted as a family. When it was Richard who developed life threatening cancer, it was another huge lesson of how to stay in love, day to day, moment to moment, right up until his death.

During the periods of isolation during this pandemic, I am acutely aware of the loss of the deep and easy companionship that Richard and I had co-created. There is no one else in the world who can remember events and episodes the two of us shared over those many years. No one can ever walk with me again who could hold the depth of understanding of who and what I am becoming as I continue aging which he never will. No one else remembers our treasured private jokes and personal triumphs. I have dear old friends who knew Richard and me together from our early days, but theirs is still an outside perspective. Memories of that past life are now mine alone.

Today I am beginning to understand that the intimacy of love that I remember is still available to me. It Is not just based on shared life experiences. It is not just in relationship with another single human being, but within the single human being that I am. When I summon the love that I felt for and from Richard, it sets up a resonance within my body/mind/spirit. I had such very good training in the best of conditional human love, that exploring unconditional love leads me on, and takes my hand, my mind, and my breath away. I find that this love is not as confined nor is it dependent on anything or anyone else. It is often unnamed, simply showing up inside my room this morning or when I was outside looking at one of Kendal’s many ponds smelling so sweet after a rain-washed night. It is in my ninety-eight-year-old neighbor’s struggle to rise up out of her chair, the high school aged dining servers bringing me my dinner tray as we once again are unable to dine with others during the latest shutdown. Love is in the faces of the overworked short-staffed nurses as they are back to COVID testing us twice a week among all of their many other duties. We are united in love by hoping that no one else at Kendal tests positive. Love is listening to sad news reports as I sip my morning tea. Love is when I am wide open to living fully all that life entails.

A Reckoning

7/27/21                                             A Reckoning

The first Kendal resident (who is living in the Care Center) just tested positive for COVID. The community is shocked and saddened. Thankfully, this person is already recovering in a negative pressure room in a hallway specifically designed to prevent any possible spread of contagion.

We had been so careful and so lucky. We are sobered. We all slid back to stricter safety measures. We remember that vaccines are not 100% effective, that we produce fewer antibodies than the young, that the emerging variants are more contagious. I am restricted from accessing the rest of Kendal again for two weeks. But I am also well cared for, safe. I am trying to get my arms around the ongoing nature of our long journey. I am calling on the wisdom of love, the strength of compassion.

 Books of Reckoning

The gray fog of isolation swallowed you whole

weighed down by loneliness, severed by separation

arms and hands too disabled to reach out









Restrictions imposed on you slammed shut door after door

complaints erupted in helpless defiance of safety vs. freedom

the need to know whose facts justified those rules









You struggled to comprehend the sweep of what we lost

inspiring reinvention, rewiring, redesigning

seeking reconnections new and healthy

on top of still sturdy foundations









Despite these individual reactions inside of our community bubble

so far, not even one of us or those we gratefully employ

died from this still evolving virus









The days of reckoning our books, our health

find us in good standing so far

though it is not over, and we were never suffering alone









The world beyond lost millions- Millions-

one million children orphaned

half a million without grandparents

we all are orphaned by the loss of ideals, by kindness submerged in fearful hate









Losses-Losses-Losses

the entire World Body ravaged by a pandemic

reckoning results of ignorance and greed

that are not over

all is coming due… and yet









Look to our young and old hearts, shaped by this same sere crisis

unfold into the future

nothing is foretold

all is in the telling









May we be held accountable

May we be sustained through clear vision and nurturing

an abundance of true stories reckoned worthy to be told

around new hearths

for generations upon generations









by Judi Bachrach

Cosmic Dust

Diary 6/5/21

The end of June marks Richard’s birthday and a week later, Father’s Day. My daughters, my brother-in- laws, and I are all attuned to this bittersweet month of summer. His death is still a mystery in our hearts. It still stirs coals of hot loss and celebratory bonfires that carry sparks of memory up into the firmament. The Milky Way still glows, the dawn arrives with birdsong, the heat beneath the sun in a perfect blue sky exudes a lazy joy to the tune of lawnmowers and barking dogs. And wonder of wonders, Richard is still not here on this third anniversary of his birthday since his death.

Another member of my former tribe in New York state has died. Someone of my current tribe in Ohio dies almost every month. Kendal at Oberlin is a Continuing Care Retirement Community of over 350 folks, a CCRC. (In case you are looking at retirement communities, this is a good acronym to learn.) As one resident whispered to me in my first month here, “We come here to die.” That is so.

We also come to here to live our fullest lives until that event, and others have said to me, “Oh, I’ll never retire.” KAO is a dynamic interactive group of elders that fills an overflowing bowl of experiences and gifts that are generously shared in every aspect of human endeavors- scientists, mathematicians, political activists, professors and teachers of every stripe, working artists in every medium, therapists, ministers and more. Our evening programs (now shared on zoom or on our inhouse TV station initiated and created by our own tech people during the Covid19 lockdown) might present a trip to Amazonia showing the six orchids discovered and named after a resident, or clips of a professional canoeist and his white-water class five river rapid excursions on the Colorado River. Or there are recent performances of home grown plays, and musical offerings from a string quartet with a viola de gamba (played by the canoeist, also a former holistic chiropractor) to harpsichord concertos, to recorder ensembles. Another retired English teacher friend reads classic short stories at teatime on the TV channel once a month. Art shows adorn our walls and hallways. Small groups gather to their interests, and square dance, swim, paint, call local politicians, or meditate together. Regular committees run the business of Kendal in conjunction with staff and board members. It is a vibrant tribe that I have chosen to adopt as my home. Without Richard. This is my home.

That I can afford to be here in the Assisted Living wing is such a gift. It is certainly the high end of an eldering experience. Due to previous luck and hard work, I am grateful to be here every day. I can only wish that someday, my life will not be such an exclusive one- that our culture will look to support everybody’s gathered years of wisdom and contributions as we pass the baton on to the next generations. It is also part of KAO’s plan that we are close in every way to Oberlin College and that we have a preschool Children’s Learning Center housed within our campus. We have the opportunity to exchange our lives with all ages. We trek our past journeys with them and envision new ones that we will not live to see completed.

I have mentioned our weekly Song Swap led by my friend, Judy Cook, a working professional folksinger. We also share a smaller Ballad Song Night every other week. Our definition of a ballad is broad and so I wrote this quirky song celebrating Life/Death with Ballad Night in mind. I’ll sing it to our crew next week and see how it goes over before I dare sing it at Song Swap which is broadcast to the whole community. Since there is a large diversity of beliefs, religions, and atheists at KAO, I wanted to find a way to express my own values in language that remains inclusive when addressing death, which flowers quietly in my June heart.





Cosmic Dust                            by Judi Bachrach 5/31/21

One of these days I’m gonna close my eyes

for me that day, the sun won’t rise

but for you, the sun, will go, right on shining

Clouds will come and clouds will go

some cry rain and some cry snow

we search, to find, any kind of-silver lining

Chorus:

We are made of cosmic dust

just like our shining star

When we die- look to the light

that’s who and what we are

Dust to dust- light to light

that’s who and what we are

The sun shines down on everyone

saints and sinners, old and young

We all, tumbled out, of the same pocket

Now I hardly leave the ground

I used to fly all around

inside, my very own- human rocket

Chorus:

I was born to live, I was born to die

I was born to keep on asking why

The answer comes- find your joy, in love

Everything else, does not last

I learned that slow, I learned that fast

Joy shines, on earth, same as- the sun above

Chorus:

Between our first and final breath

Sing of life and sing of death

Find delight in every song we sing

Make a joyful noise when it’s time to go

Sing high and sweet, sing soft and low

Become the bell to swell your heart- to ring

Chorus:

We are made of cosmic dust

just like our shining star

When we die- look to the light

that’s who and what we are

Dust to dust- light to light

that’s who and what we are

Dust to dust, light to light

that’s who and what we are

Spring Bride

The doors to our Stephen’s Care Center area where I live in Kendal at Oberlin, were finally reopened on the 1st of May. They had opened for a few days and had to close after a staff member who worked among us tested positive for Covid. Now again we were able to move around the rest of our community. Several people stopped to say- “Oh- you have stepped out of your zoom box. Amazing!” It was a terrific feeling to be part of the whole and to freely speak to others free of being timed or escorted as we had been according to Ohio health mandates.

On the day before Mother’s Day I was picked up by my son-in-law to spend a week at his home with my daughter and grandson. I no longer have to quarantine inside my room for two weeks on my return to Kendal. I hope to return here for weekends around the influx of friends finally able to come and visit them and for their own summer travels to visit friends and family in Texas. My time here is full of the delight of watching my grandson and his parents grow as a family unit. I am so nourished to partake of the flow of life in a vibrant young household.

Spring Bride 5/1/21 to the open doors in SCC at KAO

A redbud tree from the garden plot next door

has dumped a flower girl basket of pink petals

all over my patch of brown mulch

I looked to see if I could catch a glimpse

of Spring’s bride passing down the aisle

I saw a brownish fuzzy creature

perched between my stone frog’s bulbous eyes

turning its head from side to side

joining me in my search

With binoculars in hand

I saw it was a juvenile robin

half downy feathers

fluffed out against the stiff breeze

Darts of sunlight streaked over his head

disguised as goldfinches

flitting back and forth to ride the swinging birdfeeder

the robin’s ground-feeding parents

likely raised him on their fallen seeds

A small rabbit scurried across the ground right in front of him

likely late, late, for a very important date

and without his parents

the robin fluttered

off to find his fortune

Looking across the road at the trees

waving wildly with the groom’s sprouting new green love

their joyous uplifted arms

may already have welcomed the bride

and I may have missed her earliest procession

Sister Summer wafts along behind

and by her grace I renew my life vows 

once again released from these quarantined halls

I see the wind has already swept away every last petal

making way for new paths

Judi Bachrach

Freedom

How do I engage with inner freedom that is stable, independent of outer circumstances?

Outwardly, my life in the care center is shifting. Now we can rejoin the larger community and though we are all vaccinated, we from the care center must wear masks at all times, and stay distanced. To sit outside in the sun chatting with a friend, looking out on the pond in front of the main entry to Kendal, with no one to time me, or escort me, was like being on vacation. I relaxed in ways I hadn’t known I was missing. It has been very nourishing.

What is freedom? I wouldn’t recognize this gift if I didn’t already know it deep inside. Gratitude for the slow reintegration with other Kendal residents is blooming with the tulips.

Though still masked and distanced, I am reveling in new-found freedoms. leaving the care center to see the campus, friends, and community gathering areas once again.

Molting Goldfinch

I am shedding

my olive drab winter feathers

growing new ones of

aconite, forsythia, crocus, daffodil yellow

glinting in the spring sunshine

I dominate the bird feeder

propagate my species

crack open my sunflower seeds

while she delights in watching me

her seeds from a package

on top of her morning oatmeal

She is also molting

shedding gray prohibitions

of a pandemic

and growing new feathers

of golden hope

in trust for her species

I write from Ohio and am not sitting beside Lake Erie, but my body knows the waves.

Sitting on the Shore

4/7/21

Yesterday in the high wind

thoughts rose up

rising from the surf

of a thousand white stallions

crashing down on the shore

their flashing hooves

disappearing into sand

the foam sizzling away

only to arise and return

over and over again

Today my feelings are at low tide

the gentle slap and sigh

slap and sigh

lulled by waves

that come and go

to and fro

freely within

the greater body 

Sitting still

I gaze

beyond the horizon

from east to west

sitting still

what remains

beyond rocks that spawn each earthy grain of sand

beyond drops of all the rippling waters, salted and fresh

beyond photons of light radiating from our star’s fire

beyond molecules of oxygen blending into outer space

Sitting firm and utterly still

breathing in and out

freely like waves

within the greater body

Judi Bachrach

Flight

Diary 3/22/21

I have been a grouchy bear this week. I felt the spring call to emerge from my cave as usual but- the assisted living cave administrators are still bound to impose muzzling face masks, fenced in the enclosed garden, and no interactions with other any of the other bears in their independent living caves even though we have all been vaccinated. The rising sap has irritated me in ways I did not anticipate.

As I look towards July 4th weekend, which Biden bids us to hopefully celebrate as close to normal as possible, it reminds me that date will mark the start of my third year at Kendal. The continued restrictions confine my memories and my heart hurts. The arrival of spring used to mark lambing season for our flock of 23 Icelandic sheep, the transformation of fluffy peeping chicks into feathered hens, the yearly care for our horses, the careful transplanting of indoor seedlings and direct seeding of flowers and vegetables into the garden each according to their own temperature needs.

That connection to the seasons regarding working the earth and tending to animals under our care is gone. And truthfully, my own body was failing way before I moved preventing me from my attending to the active life of a homesteader. I was not aware of how much it all grounded and nourished me until this spring. My childhood and most of my adult life with Richard all happened in the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley. The Catskills are ancient rounded mountains. The energy there stood firm beneath my feet and was slow, measured, and weighted with a deep gravitas that rose up through the forests as they also embodied the seasonal changes of the northeast. Northeast Ohio has a very different feel altogether.

Kenda was built mostly on wetlands requiring the creation of seven different ponds. Settlers coming to what is now Cleveland, died by the droves of malaria. This is a wet claylike area south and west of Lake Erie with a lot of sandstone in various counties. The local wildlife no longer offers emerging black bears looking to raid our garbage deli for their spring hunger, nor are there wild turkeys scrabbling their scant nests to lay their eggs helter-skelter beneath some hemlock tree, or coyotes or foxes drooling for chickens- but there are a few deer, bunnies, muskrats, chipmunks, squirrels and a large variety of birds. Geese and ducks on the ponds, including a brief touchdown of trumpeter swans last week, complete the list and l have heard of the troublesome raccoons and skunks from those living in cottages around the far end of campus.

I have not yet had the opportunity to get around the campus (see grouchy bear above) and can only hope the new Covid19 mandates will loosen up our restrictions by the summer. Meanwhile the sun resurrects emerging growth everywhere as Eastertide approaches.

Hallelujah.

Diary 3/24/21

I am glad I waited to post the above. Today the amendments to our Ohio nursing home mandates arrived in full- in two weeks we will be allowed to leave the Care Center hallways- masked and distanced in the presence of our independent living residents- but we can go down to the central meeting area of Kendal to meet friends there. Best of all, we can be free of our own caves and venture out onto the entire campus to meet friends anywhere outdoors as well. My grouchy bear is rumbling with pleasure and anticipation. Visiting with my family will still be a timed, well sanitized, bureaucratic affair, with lots of paperwork for the staff to be able to track possible infectious problems and my daughter and grandson will be escorted to and from my room or even to outdoor assigned areas- but if the trend of less illness and hospitalizations continue all around us, eventually this, too, shall pass.

Sounds of Flight

The flight paths

are noisy again

birds returned to summer here

they weave a hammock of sound

that rocks me

before sunrise

air friction of larger manmade wings

have bested Covid withdrawal

to tear through the sky

ripping away away away

free to come and go

I prefer the bird sounds

but then again

nested on the ground

I am not yet

ready to fly

Seasons

In northeast Ohio, the days are lengthening, the ground is warming and birds are returning. The nights are still chilly and a cloudy day sets us back into warm jackets, but spring is springing forward a little bit more every day. There is comfort in this cycle. No spring is ever the same, and more often than not these days, there is even less certainty about the weather patterns and timing we have been accustomed to. The perfect spring day is a mirage that lies within dark, wet, muddy days, snow filled tulips, and then a miraculous day inviting outdoor games and picnics with the scent of flower and tree buds unfurling above and below.

I sat outside in the enclosed courtyard garden and melted with the snow as it watered the green leaves poking up from all the bulbs planted last year. When no one joined me there, I could take of my face mask and breathe the unencumbered freedom of fresh air. I live in a section of Kendal where we are still under nursing home mandates and are restricted to to stay masked inside our hallways and the courtyard. I am now allowed a one half hour visit with my daughter in another building in a room divided with a plexiglass wall between us, masked and throughly sanitized before and after the visit. Today my daughter arrived after a day of teaching on campus at the college which is a few minutes away.

We felt we covered a lot of ground talking together, free ranging our adult topics while Max is at his nanny share. On Saturday, he is allowed to come unmasked as a first thing in the morning visitor but is not supposed to touch everything in the bare room on his side of the clear wall. It is an experiment given that they have a forty-five minute drive to and from home just to see me. I have lined up a lot of songs to sing, some paper and markers to make stick figure illustrations to show him as I sing, and we’ll see how he does. I will plan to go stay with her family again when her semester is over. Other residents on the larger campus will have shorter quarantines after their away from Kendal visits, taking a Covid test, etc. but the two week safety zone is still a requirement for me. All worth waiting for as spring evolves around me.

A silly song I wrote for Max given his four favorite things to vocalize this week:

Max’s Song at 15 months

Max wants to fly like an airplane

He wants to fly up so high

Higher than bees

the birds up in the trees

Higher than clouds in the sky

Vroom vroom vroom

Max wants to play with a lion

And maybe a tiger or two

The big cats will roar

And Max will roar more

They’ll all take a nap when they’re through

Roar roar roar (snore snore snore)

Max wants to play with a doggie

The doggie will chase his red ball

She’ll bark and she’ll bark

All over the park

But she’ll always come back when Max calls

Bark bark bark

Max wants to swim with the fishes

He’ll sit in the water and play

The fish go *smack smack

And he’ll go smack smack

Say bye-bye at the end of the day

(*Fish sounds) smack smack smack

And this from pondering in the courtyard:

As Long as we Both Shall Live

March 1, 2021   

The sun and I lean in for a closer embrace

in this part of me

ice is melting

beneath my clothing

small green shoots are tickling upwards

birdsong layers my soundscape

warmth spreads

deepening

reaching even the hearts

of those suffering blindness

the loss of Love’s evanescence

Into the dark and frightened child

the starving greedy needs

of those in power

and those with none

the violent and violated

those who harm

and those in harmony

with my disappearing landscapes

all those who dwell there

pillaged and stuffed with waste

my clogged veins and arteries

muffling the heartbeat of Love

Still, we lean towards one another

the sun and I

this beneficent cycle

as we have done for millennium 

the dead make room for the living

the living make room for the dead

seasons of silence, seasons of song

as long as I live

for as long as we both shall live

we are inherent rhythms of Love

Judi Bachrach

Third Death Anniversary

Third Anniversary of Your Death- 2/14/21

Today our two daughters and I

will lift our ice cream spoons to you

on zoom.





You loved ice cream since we first met.

As teenagers, we broke our meager banks

to eat the best ice cream that we could find.





Your favorite flavor always?

Mint chocolate chip.

When we were vegans

coconut milk ice cream would do

but frozen dairy delight was still the best.





In later years, now mostly vegetarians,

you discovered the perfect gelato-

sharp creamy mint studded with

a galaxy of tiny chocolate chips.





Three days before you died

you had an unconscious undressed rehearsal

with spiked fever, and labored breathing.





I was telling our next shift helper

how you had emerged from the danger zone.

You said, quite clearly, with humor in your voice,

“Is there an ice cream zone?”

Of course, there was and

one of the last foods you ate.





At your memorial service we served

hundreds of people ice cream and sorbet.





Today we remember your sweet love

your galaxy of human gifts

melting ever deeper into our hearts.

Intermingling grief and nostalgia catch me unawares. The sound of the snowplow outside of my room at Kendal brought tears to my eyes last week. For years and years every winter, you listened to the all-weather radio station eventually spoken by a stilted digital voice. Expertly plowing the driveway, and in some years, the entire dirt road we shared with our neighbors, was a point of pride and hard work. Our therapy clients made it safely to our house, the next day’s freezing rain hit dirt, not compacted snow, and your damp padded jumpsuit hung out to dry over the closet door, revealing the neatly dressed professional beneath ready for very different work after downing a cup of hot coffee.

Maybe it’s the glance at your picture sitting on my night table- the one that our Dutch friend took of you standing on Mt. Blanc when we visited her and her husband for their twenty-fifth anniversary. Your warm eyes look directly into mine. The half-smile is enough to send shivers of physical loss inside my heart. Empathy, clarity, and fiercely loyal dedication to all you encountered shines through the glass frame. Above that, are all of the early photos of our baby grandson who you had not met in this life. I look at his little round face and sparkling eyes, and I cannot help but see you as well. There is surely a through-line there and I don’t mean just DNA.

Other times I am reluctant to use the last of the dental floss that came in a box of a million (OK maybe only 25) that you had ordered before you died. Or sitting on the chairs in my room that once were in your Manhattan office, I wonder, “Was this the client’s chair or yours?”  I think maybe I should be able to tell the difference, to feel the hours of loving counsel you gave to so many others besides your family.

You are everywhere- in a song, a meal, a landscape, a breath- in the absolute stillness when I meditate; the tangible empty solidity of creation holds us closer than close.

The poet Hafiz has a line in one of his poems: “Love is simply creation’s greatest joy.”

Paying Attention

Diary 2/8/21

January was a tumultuous month for all of us, roiling through anxiety, disgust, sorrow, and glimmers of relief with hope against hope underlying everything. I wrote often but nothing seemed to capture more than a snapshot before the next event swept in. This song emerged last month which becomes relevant as the second impeachment trial dawns.

Healing America’s Trust

Chorus:

I need a healing of my heart

healing of my heart

healing of my heart

as I start to trust again

I need a healing of my heart

healing of my heart

healing of my heart

as I start

I knew from the beginning

that the man was just a sham

he wanted us to follow

like a wolf or like a lamb

He tried to crush what we believe in

there’s so much to answer for

only now we can begin to heal our grieving

Chorus:

America will recover

from its terrible mistakes

we will endure and do the work

however long it takes

His shadow is a dark one

but his sun is fading fast

his power will soon wither

and its’ grip can never last

Chorus:

The deaths that happened on his watch

will weigh his memory down

his cruelty and lies

touched every city, every town

America was never his

to hold under a thrall

instead, we choose democracy for all

Chorus:

I need a healing of my heart

healing of my heart

healing of my heart

as I start to trust again

I need a healing of my heart

healing of my heart

healing of my heart

as I start

Segway: To the tune of America the Beautiful

The words they wrote

So long ago

Now let us make them real

Freedom and equality

Are more than some ideal

America, America

We place our trust in you

And crown your good

with brotherhood

to make those words come true

February will continue to bring major weather systems for our political, internal, and external viewing endurance. And still our private dramas are played out against these scenarios. My grandson thrives at 13 months, my body inexplicably seems to be in a new recovery mode of muscles and endurance, and Kendal at large continues to be blessed with cooperative residents and staff with most everybody vaccinated and fewer and fewer cases of Covid detected in the twice-weekly testing for residents in my area of the Care Center (no cases detected) and all staff (still a few of whom are sent home to quarantine in each cadence). Disinformation affects some staff and vendors- this is Ohio- but for the most part, everyone is vigilant, proactive, and weary but willing.

I find my spiritual practices strengthening along with my body muscles. I am more grounded, and more able to take space from riding the dramatic roller coasters of my world. I wrote this first thing this morning.

Paying Attention to Breath

2/8/21

From the first mewling breath

my daughter took

after her difficult passage to birth

Through the last crackling breath

my husband took

in his long passage to death

To every one of my approximately

16 inhales per minute

18,00 exhales per day

I find a miraculous beginning,

middle and end

autonomous yet

The connecting thread of my life

to your life

to all life

Pay attention to your breathing

my teachers have always said-

singing, archery, meditation, life

The awesome invisible order of the universe

is passing through us, is us

in and out

In and Out