Saturday, October 25, 2014

So many thoughtful poems

Missing the Boat

by Naomi Shihab-Nye

It is not so much that the boat passed
and you failed to notice it.
It is more like the boat stopping
directly outside your bedroom window,
the captain blowing the signal-horn,
the band playing a rousing march.
The boat shouted, waving bright flags,
its silver hull blinding in the sunlight.
But you had this idea you were going by train.
You kept checking the time-table,
digging for tracks.
And the boat got tired of you,
so tired it pulled up the anchor
and raised the ramp.
The boat bobbed into the distance,
shrinking like a toy—
at which point you probably realized
you had always loved the sea.

Different Ways to Pray- Breitenbush Publications 1980

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A lovely irony

This week I'm on the East Coast, Virginia and North Carolina, to be exact. I'm leading a retreat in Nags Head on the Outer Banks of NC for AA and Alanon women. I'll be giving four presentations on one of the topics dearest to my heart: creativity for everyone. I'll get a chance to encourage other recovering women to develop some kind of creative outlet, as mine have brought me great joy and I believe they have strengthened my sobriety.

Here's the lovely irony. In the spring of 1990, at barely six months sober, my sponsor at the time dragged me kicking and screaming to a beach retreat for AA and Alanon women. I was still a confirmed intellectual cynic and I hated every minute of it. It was corny, it was stupid, it was sentimental. You've probably already guessed that I am leading this same retreat 24-1/2 years later. (The retreat has been going for 40 years.) It's in the same place at the same hotel (hopefully upgraded).

This will be a perfect opening story.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

For Nellie

I'll have many cats in heaven
if pure souls always go
I'll meet them all again

Max with three-legged courage
Faithful Sasha
Jake, marked down to $9.99 at the pet store
Reinie, the beautiful
Maurie, the homeless

There've been others too, in and out of my life
Wanderers, loaners, leavers
Simon, Jesse, Mickey, Willie Duncan

So there'll be a pride to greet me
when I cross over

It comforts me to think
they may have found each other already
swapping stories of how much I loved them
of how much I spoiled them
how many times they got me
to get up and let them in and out

It comforts me to think
they greeted Nellie when she
came through the tunnel and into the light

Children who've died
and come back
all say an animal accompanied
them through the tunnel
a hummingbird, a bumble bee, a hamster
It's a perfect job for Nellie
who greeted everyone
who came to my door
Maybe she's already guiding
the wee ones who leave early
into the next whatever
Or maybe she'll take up
with my others and tell
her side of our story
All I know is that if any cat
will be there at the end
of the tunnel to welcome
me home, it will be Nell

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My new juicer

My new juicer arrived about a week ago. Uncharacteristically, I didn't open the box at first. While I went on loving green juice and smoothies, I had become so disenchanted by the expensive juicer, that I didn't want to take a chance that this one would be even more of a hassle. Plus it was in such a huge box, I was afraid it was going to take over my kitchen. And I had some juice frozen so wasn't in immediate need.

Then last weekend, I opened the box and took out the juicer. I wa relieved to see that it was in a lot of packaging (although sadly huge chunks of unrecyclable molded styrofoam). It is some bigger than the old one but not excessively. I washed it and put it together (no more complicated than the last one) and then got out my washed organic produce. Three limes, three cucumbers, two bunches of kale, 1/2 pound of carrots, three heads of romaine, a bunch of flat leaf parsley, 3 apples. 15 minutes later 3 quarts of juice: ends off cukes and romaine, cores out of apples (2 minutes), juice took 8, clean-up took 5.

I love the new juicer!

PS Three limes may be too much. Tart!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Welcome everything. Push nothing away.

Yesterday afternoon at 3:30 I said goodbye to my dear sweet girl Nellie.

In the spring of 2003, I did a soul retrieval, trying to reconnect with lost parts of myself. One part that came to the surface was my 3-month-old self and the shaman who took the journey with me suggested I get a doll and rock it and acknowledge it. I tried that but the doll just didn't do it for me. So I went to the Humane Society and found Nellie, who was 3 months away. We bonded in a deep and loving way from the beginning and I knew she knew me just as I knew her.

Nellie had many friends among my friends and in the two weeks since her diagnosis with intestinal lymphoma, a parade of people has come through to sit with her and say goodbye. She was a regular member of the Writing Friday women's circle and she charmed every cat sitter I had.

All day Wednesday I struggled with my decision. Keep her going on steroids as long as I could or release her while she felt good? I opted finally for the latter, for her and for me, as I could not tolerate more days of second-guessing, hoping for a different outcome when none was possible, anticipating the difficulty of her loss. We had a good day on Thursday. Our weather was heavenly: sunny, warm, a light breeze, the Fall at its most magical. Nellie spent time in the garden behind us with my good friend Melanie, and then she and I had two hours on the porch swing basking in the sun where I murmured sweet nothings and she licked my hand.

A lovely vet came to the house. She was friendly, kind, and respectful. Nellie took a while to settle, to slow, to let go, and I was in no hurry. And then she was gone. I felt her presence last night but not this morning. And now we close up our circle with one less.

Yesterday morning my very close friend Sue sent me a quote: Welcome everything. Push away nothing. I'm doing my best to welcome in the grief, the loss, the broken-hearted tears streaming down my face. I could not push away the cancer that had her in its grip, I will not push away the sorrow that I feel. After all it's the consequence of deep love. 


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gratitude well expressed

Arms Full

by Rebecca del Rio


Gratitude means showing up on life’s doorstep,
love’s threshold, dressed in a clown suit,
rubber-nosed, gunboat shoes flapping.
Gratitude shows up with arms full of wildflowers,
reciting McKuen or the worst of Neruda.


To talk of gratitude is to be
the fool in a cynic’s world.
Gratitude is pride’s nightmare,
the admission of humility before something
given without expectation or attachment.


Gratitude tears open the shirt
of self importance, scatters buttons
across the polished floors of feigned indifference,
ignores the obvious and laughs out loud.


Even more, gratitude bears her breasts, rips open
her ribs to show the naked heart, the holy heart.
What if that sacred heart is not, after all, about sacrifice?
Imagine it is about joy, barefoot and foolhardy,
something unasked for, something unearned.


What if the beat we hear, when we are finally quiet is simply this:
Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Waking up into the panic of a broken heart

Last night I woke about 2:45. I felt off, as if there was a huge weight on my chest. I'm a body sensitive with a dose of hypochondria so I did a body scan. No pain, no shortness of breath, no sweats. no nausea. I got up and got some cold sparkling water and took it into the living room. The four cats gathered around, two wanting petting, two just watching.

And then my old friend panic strolled into the room. He came over and sat on me and for the next 25 minutes, I had rolling waves of panic attack, adrenalin surging through my body, rising up in my throat, hot sweats and then chills, and then blessed fatigue and I was able to go back to bed and sleep soundly for a few hours.

Panic hasn't visited in several years. He was a constant companion in the months after my mother died, so constant that I sought help from a therapist who specialized in panic attacks and phobias. I did some of his exercises but I think time was the biggest healer.

Now I'm preparing to part from my sweet girl Nellie and after the first days of diagnosis and overt grief, I had gone back to life pretty much as usual. On steroids she acts close to normal and it's been easy to pretend that she's getting better. But there is no getting better from what is consuming her and yesterday I realized that her departure is imminent. And that heartbreak came over me in the night, the aloneness of life, the finality of death, and the powerlessness to stop the train she's on.