Oct 182014
 

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(December 8, 2013)

Five years ago, this was how my house looked at Christmas. In fact, I have a blog post exactly five years ago tonight, with the same photo. Nancy and I moved into our new home in July 2008, and our first holiday season was an opportunity to put some lights up. This was one of the first and best photos of my house as landscaping was being installed, and we were relaxing into our new home. You can see the tree through the windows in the middle of the second floor.

Fast forward to now, and it has been four full years since any holiday decorations have been up in my home. I’m a little shocked, I just realized this today. Three years ago, Nancy was very weak and we were trying to figure out what was wrong…there was no room for tree or house decoration. Two years ago, she was in the ICU, and Christmas was the last thing on my mind. To be honest, I don’t even remember Christmas two years ago, although I know I got together with her family. Last year, I couldn’t deal with the intensity of my feelings, and did no decorations.

But now it’s different. This is my house, and I will be here through the holidays. I’ve been digging into the boxes of Christmas stuff, and found the lights we put on the decks four years ago. They are up again as of tonight. I am now decorating my home.

(October 18, 2014)

I have kept these lights on every night since last December, and few see them, as the street traffic after dark on my dead-end street is almost nonexistent. But I see them. I’ve kept the lights on all year, without really knowing why. As I go back into my journal, and read this unposted entry from last December, now I know. It’s like lighting a candle in memory of someone, in celebration. Every night the lights go on and remind me this is my home, the one Nancy and I created together, that is mine now. Let the lights illuminate the setbacks, the cedar siding we so carefully finished together in the spring of 2011, the railings we drilled and installed, the beautiful architecture that Art Chartock designed and Rich Dowd and Bob Hartwell implemented.

I often light the candle in the entry way and burn incense when I get home. At 7pm it’s dark, but the marble buddha that dominates the entry space gets honored as often as I am capable. Anyone walking by can see it. I love my home so much. I may not live here the rest of my life – Marin property taxes are so high – but I do so enjoy being here while I can afford it. Let the light shine every night.

 Posted by at 3:17 pm

returning home

 Buddhism, Nancy, Reflection, Travel  Comments Off on returning home
Aug 232014
 

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Ah, home. The word means something different when we are days or weeks away. A driving trip to a distant place makes home far away, and I had lots of time to contemplate as I journeyed back with my Canadian flotilla. Here are some numbers: 6138 miles total on this trip, and the return took four and a half days. I drove 600 to 800 miles each day, except for the final leg from Reno on Saturday, when I got home about 1:30 in the afternoon.

Preparing for the trip, I had too many boats. It was possible to carry two kayaks and a canoe on top of the boat trailer and the Jeep, but not desirable. And I really had no place to use a fast, slender, tippy wood canoe in California; that’s a vehicle for Algonquin territory. Fortunately, my friends Urs and Verena wanted one, love canoeing, and so it’s now tucked away at the Mirror Lodge. And I have a great reason to return.

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It’s been something like 18 years since I’ve driven this far away, and there were a few surprises about the trip itself. One is learning all over again how wide the corn belt is. Half of Illinois, all of Iowa and most of Nebraska, something like 800 miles of pure cornfields. The other surprise was encountering 33 construction zones along the way. Michigan alone had 11 of them, and my friend Brian’s daughter Katie told me “Michigan has two seasons, winter and construction”. Boy, was that the truth. I had to deal with three severe detours and several 30-mile stretches of single-lane traffic because of all the roadwork. At least the work suggests that our economy is improving, and that we are investing in our infrastructure as a nation.

I was surprised to see wind farms in every single province and state. Ontario, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Nevada, and of course California. Energy was a theme for this trip, there were signs of the energy economy everywhere.

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There were trains too, both heading east and returning home. I must have seen a thousand oil tank cars in Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota, and more coming home through Wyoming. Fracking is a huge industry. This is eastern Wyoming, climbing into the Rockies at 6000 feet, just one of the 50-odd trains I saw on the trip.

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Overall, the trip was flawless, the Jeep was rock-solid, the weather was fair, there were no problems bringing the boats across the Canadian border, and…I didn’t get any speeding tickets. The Jeep never even needed a quart of oil. Amazing. What a great vehicle (Jungians, you can smile here. Jen and I bought the Cherokee together; it bodes well for us 🙂 Here we are on the Bonneville Salt Flats on a rainy day.

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For much of the trip home, I was musing about solitude and overview. The journey out with Jen was connected and fun; a shared adventure that was never boring, spiced with both silence and great conversation, ease and spontaneity. Travel home was completely solitary, except for my first night with friends in Michigan, and the people I met in gas stations and motels and restaurants. The huge vistas invite reflection. I spent a lot of time considering and meditating on various parts of my life, relationship patterns, how we bond in partnership and marriage with another, and the qualities of that bonding. I’ve gained an almost visceral understanding of how we connect with the people we love. Tibetan meditation teaches how to notice a thought or feeling, and rather than dismiss it (Therevada) or bring compassion to it (Mahayana), just become still with it and let it flower and deepen and inform us of it’s truer nature. I had 50 hours for such contemplation, and took advantage of it.

I loved Nancy deeply, and I don’t doubt that she loved me as well. But I never really felt loved, our relationship was more competitive and fraternal than well-joined and respectful. We bickered, it was not good, I’m accountable for that as much as she. It’s a pattern we finally broke only a few months before she passed away. There is a fine book, A General Theory of Love, that discusses bonding theory, and I read it after Nancy was gone. Quite illuminating. I don’t think she learned how to bond well at an early age. Not her fault, it just is. But I’m happy to be engaging in relationship with someone who can connect like I do.

More generally, I’ve been feeling deeper into samsara, the way that we create our own pain and misery through attachment. Attachment is joyous for those of us who do it well, but it’s ultimately painful, as we always eventually lose whatever we are attached to. I built a lovely house and home with Nancy, and now she is gone, and one day the house will be gone too. I love Jen quite profoundly, and one day that will also end. So the blessing and curse of incarnation is attachment.

Enjoy it while you can. I love my house, I love Jen, I love the journey. It all ends. Love now.

 Posted by at 6:15 pm

the roxy road

 Nancy, Reflection, Travel  Comments Off on the roxy road
Aug 182014
 

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Today is transition day, I’m feeling a ton of things, and letting something shift inside. Punctuated by Roxy Music.

Al and Kathy have put us up in a delightful cottage on their property on Duck Lake, and this has become my base of operations as we picked up Miss Powassan and put her in the water Friday, toured the lake, and polished the day off with an excellent dinner at the Old Mirror Lodge. Nancy and I had our wedding party there in 2006, and it was very sweet to come back, visit with friends and owners Verena and Urs Bärtschi, see table cloths we left there after our party, and see how good the lakes and the Lodge and other properties are looking. Some businesses have closed, so the whole area seems a bit subdued since my last visit in 2009, but maybe that’s just me.

The Jones cabin is in pretty good shape, after four years without guests. The dock has some damage from winter ice, but is still quite serviceable. The stairs need to be leveled, but the inside of the cabin seems undamaged, although mice have left nests everywhere. The canoe and kayaks are there, and so is my camping and fishing gear and a lovely piece of art that Kathy gave us for our wedding.

It rained all morning Saturday, so we stayed in and enjoyed the cottage. Jen flew out of North Bay in the afternoon to meet her sister in New York, and I have entered the solo part of my journey.

Turning off Highway 11 at Trout Creek, onto 522, I turned on music. Tried Fleetwood Mac for a few minutes, but that didn’t feel right. And Roxy Music seemed perfect. Loud. Very loud, in fact. Remember “Avalon”? Sink into it.

I could feel at the time

There was no way of knowing

Fallen leaves in the night

Who can say where they’re blowing

As free as the wind

And hopefully learning

Why the sea on the tide

Has no way of turning

More than this – there is nothing

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I am unwinding Nancy as I drive. 522 from Highway 11, the final 40 minutes to Duck Lake. Nancy always insisted on driving it as we completed our four-hour journey from Toronto each summer to arrive here. Now I get to do it alone. This is no longer her lake, or our lake. It’s mine.


My heart has flown away now

Will it never stop bleeding

Alone, I can feel the Nancy-sized hole in my heart, and my eyes are wet off and on all day. I’m not really crying, or even feeling sad – although I am sad that Nancy will never be here again. I feel surprisingly connected to this place, just as I have always felt coming up here, and I was not expecting that. Being here without Nancy feels much like it did with her, restful, quiet, heart-opening. Ah, I’ve arrived. Here is my destination, the Crowthers cabin, with the lake in the background.

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…and Miss Powassan (under the green cover) and my canoe, resting at the dock, with the Crowther Navy.

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* * *

This morning dawned bright and clear, the first warm and sunny day since we entered Canada four days ago. I sat and meditated, then Kathy and Al and I took Nancy’s ashes out into the center of Duck Lake in Miss Powassan, and scattered them with a bowl full of clipped wildflowers. I held the ritual from inside my Vajrasattva practice, which is all about purifying karma. So strange and mysterious to see each hand-full of her ashes fall into the water, and sink into the depths, trailing a cloud. I spoke the Tara prayer as I returned her to the elements. I was slow and deliberate. This is not-Nancy – I believe her spirit is in motion elsewhere – but it is the final physical remains of an incarnation, a very specific and special person that I and many others still love.


All the world, even you

Should learn to love the way I do

I was lost, can’t you see

Through the long lonely night

Heaven knows, I believe

You can take a chance with me

The jewel box where I’ve kept her ashes was surprisingly light in my hands as I removed it from the boat. And there is a lightness in my heart as well. A commitment is fulfilled, as is our marriage vow. I am delighting in the day, as I tend to chores, register the boat trailer, and pack for the journey home.

 Posted by at 11:33 am
Aug 022014
 

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In a few days, I’ll be starting a two-week road trip to Ontario, Canada.This will be my first long driving trip in years. It is also a journey that will mark a deep change. I’m going to Canada to scatter Nancy’s ashes. There it is. And…I need to pick up some boats. And fishing gear. And perhaps say goodbye to a lovely part of the planet that came into my life with her. If you are dialed into Jungian symbology, it’s a lot that’s all happening at once. So this posting is the first, the prelude to the dream, so to speak. I will write more as the journey progresses.

Port Loring is a small town, surrounded by lakes and rivers, an hour’s drive to the nearest supermarket, and the cabin is only reachable by boat. I think I traveled there seven times with Nancy, flying to Toronto, driving 4+ hours, then putting our boat in the water and motoring across Duck Lake to the cabin. It was a journey not worth doing unless we stayed at least a week. Opening the cabin was a full-day task, with a quarter-acre of vegetation to whack down, a ton of household goods to unpack, beds to make, lots of cleaning. We got married there, we rested and entertained friends and did craft projects and cabin maintenance. I became quite skilled as a plumber because of the Jones family cabin, and got tons of practice piloting small boats, towing water skiers, kayaking, picking berries…there was always something to do. No TV or cell phone service, few radio stations, intermittent phones and electricity.

The last time I was there was 2009, although Nancy and her sister Janet were there in 2010. No one has been to the cabin in four years, and I don’t know what I will find. Dock damage from the ice for sure — it was a nasty winter, and the lake had many inches of ice all the way across. The property will be overgrown, but the annual robin’s nest in the porch rafters should have chicks by the time I arrive, and I hope to find our canoe and kayaks in good condition. Miss Powassan, the 16-foot Giesler cedar-strip power boat that we bought in 2006, has been safely stored, and recently serviced, ready for the water. I hope to have a day to cruise for hours down the Pickerel River system, through a half-dozen lakes, and see all the lovely places one more time.

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Sunrise from the cabin, absolutely quiet except for the occasional loon call. Below is the view from Miss Powassan’s cockpit, cruising the lakes on a cloudy day with showers.

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Trip planning has been a pleasure, as we will drive through Idaho, Yellowstone, Montana, and east through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Sault Ste. Marie and into Ontario. Friends have been kind enough to let me stay at their place on the lake, so I don’t have to open the cabin or find a motel. We will dine at the Old Mirror Lodge, with longtime friends Verena and Urs Bartschi, who hosted my wedding party. This will be bitter-sweet, bringing Nancy’s remains to their final resting place, and releasing that most important part of her from my life. It will also be delightful, to be in this pure and beautiful place once more, and share it with Jen for a couple of days. I’m looking forward to the whole journey, even as it feels odd to return without Nancy. Duck Lake was always Nancy’s home, the one constant in an ever-changing life as an Air Force brat. And so it will be again, as her remains join the geology.

 Posted by at 6:14 pm

a pleasure of faith

 Nancy, Reflection  Comments Off on a pleasure of faith
Feb 012014
 

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I had a heart-opening, delightful and perfect moment this morning, one that I’m sure I will relish for a long time. I found the missing candle holder.

On some level we all live amidst chaos, and I often feel like I have an extra dose of it because I am sorting through boxes and boxes of stuff that belonged to Nancy, my mother, my stepfathers, and some from grandparents as well. As these people have fallen away from my life, I’ve ended up with all the material goods, some treasures, a lot of junk. I tackle it a little at a time, perhaps a box each weekend, and little by little my garages are emptying. It is such a long process, it’s taken a lot of fortitude to keep going. This morning, I dove into a box of Nancy’s that came from under her father’s house last spring, a box that she threw down there more than twenty years ago, with books and junk from her life in LA long before I met her. There is a Kodak camera with film in it, and I wonder about the five ancient photos locked inside on a partial roll of film. There is a dead telephone, more architecture and design books, and a copy of “The Bridges of Madison County” with a photo of her dad from WW II, and a photo of her somewhere in Asia, sometime in the ’90’s, with a Buddha. And Holy Grail of Grails, tucked in a corner of the box next to the phone, coated in a layer of grime and cardboard dust, there is The Candle Holder. The Candle Holder I Knew I Would Find One Day.

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The back story is that I encountered one of these, a lovely 2-inch cube of rough glass, almost two years ago. I remember looking at it, holding it, loving it’s beauty and heft and utility and symmetry, and knowing in my heart that it had a mate somewhere in the universe. Nancy had a habit of tossing stuff into random corners – she was a walking embodiment of the Second Law of Thermodynamics in her personal life – so I carefully tucked it away in a cabinet with other candle and incense holders, with the strange certainty that I would find it’s partner. (Nancy would never have bought just one, unless it was a unique item.)

So the thrill of discovery was long-anticipated, completely surprising, and has dropped me into this reverie that you have joined. What is that moment, that thrill, that joy and satisfaction when I pulled this thing out of a small morass of dusty junk?

My first cut comes from my ego, who cheerfully gloats “I knew I would find it!” But there is feeling underneath, something about holding an intention for years, and feeling it come to fruition. I have a deep desire to create perfection in my own ways, making things neat and aligned and symmetrical, so some primordial part of me is gratified by the joining of long separated mates. Ah, there they sit, together again, just as they were always intended to be. There. Now I’m getting closer to the fountain of joy inside.

I’m feeling our separation again. In fact, I’m feeling how life is full of splitting apart and coming together. I kiss Jen goodbye as we go off to work, and kiss her hello as we greet each other after hours or days apart. Divergence creates the possibility of joy and union in the future. My loss of Nancy creates the possibility of reunification. Incarnation into human form creates the possibility of divine union in the future. Perhaps I can feel how we are never really separated, just displaced in space and time.

Or perhaps I’m just happy to have a matched pair of beautiful, well designed candle holders. Whatever, it is, I love them.

 Posted by at 11:01 am
Oct 052013
 

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I’ve been continuing to think about boats over the last few weeks, and it’s going to be a few years before I can seriously consider purchasing a big enough boat to live aboard. Many of you don’t know that I owned a 44’ wooden schooner for about 15 years (a classic boat nightmare, by the way!) and that boats have always been an interest. Even fewer of you know that I already own a boat. Yes, this is her, Miss Powassan, a 17’ Giesler cedar-planked runabout.

The story is kind of amusing. Nancy’s family has had cabins on a lake in Ontario, Canada for about 80 years. She and I first went to her dad’s cabin in 2005, and it was an annual vacation most of our years together. After hearing her desire for a wood canoe, I contacted Giesler and ordered one for her, gave her the order as a Christmas present, then we went to the town of Powassan on our first trip in 2006 to pick the canoe up. There in the show room, covered in a quarter-inch of wood dust, was Miss Powassan. They had built her especially for the town’s centennial in 2004, with full decking, reinforcement for an oversized motor, and a commemorative brass plaque on the dash. She had appeared in parades, escorted dignitaries, etc. Nancy fell in love, we actually needed a boat, so of course we had to buy her. Miss Powassan is a classic and simple boat, with bench seating and cushions for four, quick, light and economical.

She has been the star of our trips, pulling water skiers, getting groceries (the cabin is only accessible by boat), ferrying guest and taking us on full-day journeys from lake to lake to lake, touring the country in search of the perfect picnic spot. This picture was taken on just such a day, when we took a lunch and traveled a couple of hours to this inn, where you can see Nancy sitting at our picnic table. I realize that I want Miss Powassan in my life, it’s been more than three years since I’ve been to Canada and put her in the water. Now the itch for a boat is reminding me that she sits in forlorn storage, untended, and I only need to fetch her.

Ah, therein lies the rub. 2835 miles, 42 hours of driving time. A journey is forming in my mind, a pilgrimage to Port Loring, Canada next summer, in my trusty Ford pickup. I’ll get the kayaks, canoe, fishing gear, and Miss Powassan of course. I also will scatter Nancy’s ashes in the lake near her family cabin, a place she deeply loved, a duty that has been awaiting me for almost two years. There is a world of closure that this trip will offer, as well as a chance to visit good friends and perhaps even family. I’ve had some amazingly wonderful times there, with some very fine and fun people. With both Nancy and her father gone, the connection is slipping away, and there are many there who will want to honor Nancy’s passing.

Then of course, I have to figure out where I’m going to keep all these boats. One of my friends who lives aboard a big boat in Sausalito has already volunteered dock space. Hmm.

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 Posted by at 1:10 pm

inner light

 Nancy, Reflection  Comments Off on inner light
May 232013
 

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So much has been going on inside over the last month, it’s hard to articulate. I tried to start writing earlier tonight, and couldn’t find the words, so I did an unconscious thing, and watched one of my favorite Star Trek – The Next Generation episodes, “The Inner Light”. This one always brings me to tears, and now I understand a lot more about why. Yes, there is loss, and I can completely relate to it. But I’m also projecting my feelings on the story of incarnation.

In this episode, Picard gets to experience a whole different incarnation, an entire life. It’s like a microcosm of our existence, a deep reminder that our life is transient, and that some part of us is bigger than this lifetime. Picard goes on a twenty-minute journey where he loves a woman, has children, lets go of the past life that he knew, loses his wife, finds a fulfilling existence, then finally returns to the larger, outer life. He also learns to play the flute, and the skill carries with him as he returns to his place as the captain of a starship. Symbolically, this is the cycle of samsara, of incarnation over and over. Roger Ebert wrote about this very well.

This is still a very current topic in my awareness. I’m swimming in an ongoing pool of Nancy’s stuff, sorting and distributing, and she continues to unfold. It’s a strange process; she is becoming more intimate, and also less of a force. I feel less of the drama of our life and her death, instead of a wave of grief, I feel a burst of sadness and thoughtfulness, smiling at the memory and returning to what is here and now…it’s all settling in. I have a fresh truckload of her stuff from under her father’s house, some of it is still boxed and sealed, and it’s not difficult, any more, just time-consuming. But I do have a bunch of photos that I’ve never seen, and they’ve been touching my heart. Her high school prom, watching sunrise from a temple in Indonesia (from around the time we first met doing workshops together), more touching images from her twenties and thirties and her childhood.

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I get to see the totality of her incarnation now, through pictures, journals, artwork, interior design plans for huge beautiful projects. It’s a lot, she was a prolific woman. And along with the intimacy of seeing and feeling so much of her, she is also settling into my heart in a different way. She’s just there, like a treasured experience, but no longer dominating my feelings.

Her altar has changed. I’ve removed her ashes from the great room of my home, and created a new place for her inside the altar cabinet in my practice room. Now when I go down there each morning, and light a candle, I can open the cabinet and see her new sacred area, the photos and some of her favorite things, an altar within an altar. It seems so appropriate, as my buddhist practice would never have grown like this if I hadn’t lost her. And it also seems perfect that she is held within the Buddha, just as she is held within my heart, and her spirit is held within something greater now.

My life with her is now so much like the journey of Picard in this program. It’s like a whole reality that brought me new experience and learning. And both the memory and the learning stay with me, like Picard and his ability to play the flute.

 Posted by at 11:35 pm
Dec 212012
 

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I’ve been continuing to reflect on the last year, re-reading my blog postings from a year ago as Nancy and I navigated her hospitalization.  Early last December, we realized that she would not survive, and a year ago this afternoon, she decided to stop medical treatment. She passed away early the following morning, so tomorrow will be one year. I’ve also gone back and read my private journal entries, where I wrote about my feelings through this period, the events of her final day, the long vigil that Tina Benson, her brother Jim, her sister-in-law Kathy and I shared through the night. Someday perhaps I will get this into a book, but for now, there is no need to share details. It’s enough for me to simply remember her, and feel the still-healing place in my heart.

So the next 24 hours of my life are ritual space, and I invite you to join me in whatever way you wish. As we celebrate the winter solstice, and the death and rebirth it symbolizes, remember who she was to you, what she brought to you, cherish her. And perhaps ask yourself what was born in you at the time she passed away?

For me, everything inside seems to be different. The boot-camp of nearly two months in the ICU developed some essential durability inside; I know that I can sit with anyone through just about anything now. I also know just how fiercely loyal I am…I never even thought about leaving her side through all of this (although we were working hard on our marriage before her final illness came in).

The daily contact I had with her, for weeks after she passed away, was loving and communicative and startlingly real for me. It was like having her sitting next to me, invisible and a little hard to hear clearly. It got to be pretty amusing, I would be driving to work, and she would land in the passenger seat and surprise me, stick around a chat for a while, then take off. I had additional contact with her last April, for several weeks. I now know that some part of us continues after we pass away, and that unshakeable knowing has stripped away most of my fear of my own death. With that, many of my other habitual fears have fallen away. If I have a feeling, I don’t hesitate to express it. If I have an observation to share with someone dear to me, I don’t hesitate to express that either…as long as what I say is in service to them and to our relationship. I had so many little stopping points, ways of filtering myself, before Nancy died, too afraid to speak the plain truth, afraid of my impact or of the judgement or criticism that might come back. Now I hardly ever filter myself. Life is too short for superficialities.

I also have a sharp and deep appreciation for all that I sense and experience. I’m loving food, wine, weather, hugs, everything sensory in huge ways, and I’m greedy for it all. Life is precious and fleeting, and we won’t get to have these experiences when we’re gone, it will be different.

Which begs the question, what do we get to take with us when we die? I can testify that Nancy had all her memories and feelings, in fact, her ability to express love and feel loved was liberated when she left her body. So we get to take our love with us. Perhaps that is the durable remains of incarnation, the part we get to keep always. The ngöndrö practice text says

The passage of the four seasons is but a momentary flicker.
Everything is impermanent, bound to four inevitable ends.
There is no one who, having been born, has not died.
Our lifespan and life force are like a flash of lightening or a drop of dew.

I would have never taken on the preliminary practices before losing Nancy, and now there is a spiritual anchor in my life through them. They are changing my body, strengthening me physically and changing me in subtle ways I can feel, but not yet comprehend. Some of my meditations are bringing intense insight, delightful awareness, deeper feelings, more receptivity. This is all wonderful.

And lastly, I adore the woman I’m dating, I revel in the direct and affectionate and uncommitted relationship we have, and we are about to go on vacation in Hawaii through the holidays, my real first vacation since the summer of 2009. I’m looking forward to what the new year will bring.

I sincerely hope that you, my friends, are finding love and connection, meaning and warmth this holiday season. I love you.

 Posted by at 7:04 am

remembering the mozart wait

 Nancy, Reflection  Comments Off on remembering the mozart wait
Dec 042012
 

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Since late October, I’ve been re-living the same time last year, the final fifty-six days of Nancy’s life, in the ICU at UCSF. When I went through the experience, I just had to show up each day, fully present, in the parts of me that could function while seeing my beloved on full life support, completely self-aware. Now I’m remembering the horror of it, how I had to negotiate with all my internal scared and young parts that could not deal with the challenge, tucking them away safely before walking into the hospital. It was the most difficult period in my life.

December 4th was the day that we found out that Nancy’s spinal abscess had returned, and that it could not be operated on. It was a decisive day, we all knew somewhere in our hearts that she would not recover without some kind of miracle. I wrote:

We are now facing the biggest mountain of all. Her two-month infection has turned into an abscess that seems to span most of her cervical and thoracic vertebrae, half of her back. It’s inoperable, it’s too big. Medical treatment is limited. The team of doctors switched antibiotics Friday, to meropenem and vancomycin, the big guns. The immunosuppressive drugs that prevent graft/host disease are dialed down to minimums, tachrolimus is below the therapeutic level, and prednisone is down to 10mg today. They will reduce the prednisone again in a day or two, but 5mg is pretty much the minimum to avoid an adrenal system crash that would also cripple her immune system. It’s a tightrope. Her immune system must rally to beat this.

The odds of Nancy beating this are not good. Nancy doesn’t want to die, she’s scared, I’m scared, and we’re digging deep. Her brother, sister and I all had extensive talks with her ICU attending and oncology attending today, and we’re putting together a meeting in a couple of days with the whole team.

That being said, some other parts of the journey are going well, and I believe in the power of all of our intention and prayer. There are a lot of us petitioning for her recovery, I’m giving her reiki each day, and lighting our altars each night. Her kidneys are working well, putting out something over four liters of urine each day. I didn’t even know they could do that. She’s been breathing on her own all day today, although she’ll get some breathing assistance tonight to help her rest. Her lungs have cleared of fluid, and she hasn’t been coughing up anything at all today. Her secondary inflection has cleared, and she has no more indication of any stomach problems. All her vital signs look good, though her pulse has been consistently high, around 100-105. She has almost no fever. She’s resting comfortably, and sleeping more than half the time since 3am this morning.

She’s sleeping now, in a quiet darkened room, as the chaos of the daily nursing shift change swirls outside. Mozart has been on the iPod player all day, as Janet, Jim and I take turns being with her. Her nephew Andrew and sister-in-law Kathy were here this morning also. As a side note, her dad came home from his week in the Novato hospital today, which helps ease the collective stress in the Jones clan.

Settle in, this is going to take days or weeks to resolve. I’ve learned that love is not a transient sensation of the body, love is a state of being, as durable as a galaxy.

As I approach the anniversary of her death, I’m contemplating all of what I have learned and developed because of her, and thinking about what I want to do on the anniversary to memorialize her, celebrate her, and release her. I’m also remembering all my love, encouragement, devotion, fear and pain.

 Posted by at 7:51 am

coming to term

 Buddhism, Nancy, Reflection  Comments Off on coming to term
Sep 292012
 

wpid-ngondro-2012-09-29-18-33.jpg

We all recently passed the nine-month mark since Nancy’s passing. It’s damn spooky (or maybe just divinely perfect) that she died on the longest night of the year, and every change of seasons for the rest of my life will remind me of her. But there is something special about nine months. It’s our special, human period of gestation. I wonder how I’ve been gestating.

I have to start by saying that grief is still ongoing, I feel sadness several times a day. It’s not massive, the hole in my heart is healing, but there is still pain, my attachment to her was deep. Fog pours over the Marin headlands, and the beauty reminds me of Nancy, how we would delight in it together. Tears arrive. I drive in the fast lane to work, and I remember how she hated to be near railings, would ask me to move over toward the middle of the highway. Tears again. The reminders are endless and frequent, although now I just feel sad for a few minutes. I don’t have to pull over to the side of the road, racked by sobs any more. I wipe tears away, and move forward.

I also keep myself in my grieving, tracking my feelings by writing this blog. This is helping me to heal, I can feel it. I’ve just gone back and re-read parts of my blog after she passed, the night of her 49-day ritual, and my eyes are wet now. It’s all still tender.

…so empty. The white roses from tonight’s altar are on the table next to me, lovely and simple like the ritual Val Szymanski led tonight. Zen teaches the beauty of emptiness, and I can feel that through the memorial service, and through the loneliness of my silent home. The cooling fan in my laptop is the only sound, except when I click the keys to write this. Or sniff back my tears.

Brings me to a funny painful story. When I started riding my motorcycle to work again a few months ago (1+ hour commute to San Bruno), I found out quickly that it’s really hard to deal with a wave of grief while riding. At 70mph on the freeway, a wave hit me, and I made the mistake of opening my visor to wipe tears. Big error. The tears streaming down my face immediately splattered all over the inside of the helmet, like driving through a rainstorm without windshield wipers. I managed to pull over and compose myself without accident, before making my way home. I haven’t made that mistake twice 🙂

So, what is happening at nine months? A week ago, on the equinox, exactly nine months, I was in a weekend workshop on deepening spirituality. I believe that says it all. Right now, I’m in the middle of a four-day workshop at Sukhasiddhi. I’m beginning a two-year program of deeper buddhist practice, called ngöndro, the basic practices that relieve negative karma from past lives, and put our ego in right relationship to bring ourselves and all humans to enlightenment. In particular, I’m starting the preliminaries. The picture above shows the dedication at the beginning of the text.

This is a difficult learning, as hard as anything I’ve ever done. Holding a visualization, memorizing & reciting a Tibetan prayer, and doing a physical movement (prostrations) at the same time is challenging. Aaaand, we had a wonderful dharma talk last night about how this rewires the brain. These practices light up both sides of the brain and put them in relationship, so that cross-connection occurs. There is ample scientific evidence, researchers are doing MRI scans of monks in specific meditations, and wondering if the MRI equipment is broken. People who undertake these practices can make deep shifts in the way their bodies and minds work.

I will say this about the workshop. When forty people chant a prayer together, in that spacious and rhythmic way, as we did at Nancy’s 49-day ceremony, something wonderful happens. If you open to the sound, you can feel how the prayer rips through the space-time continuum. It’s like hearing the Gyuto Monks chant together. I’m spending four days in the beautiful and privileged place of doing this, moving this, hearing this.

I’m going in. Again. That is what is being birthed. I’m converting an empty bedroom in my home into a practice room. And I am trying to figure out how I can spend one to two hours each morning doing these practices. Now I’m up against my ego. Again. Will my attention go towards making this easy or difficult? Perhaps this will be both easy and challenging at the same time, and I just get to sit in that.

 Posted by at 6:33 pm