Are we grains of spirit put here to pollinate each other?
Journal | Week of November 21, 2022
For those new to this e-community, I offer my readers weekly snippets from my daily writing (tidied up a bit ;-)
November 21, 2002 | Monday
Where is peace? In loss, peace seems like a destination, remote and faraway, no map to tell you how to get there from here.
I ask my dozing torti-girl, “What if peace is like home, and it’s inside each of us, always with us, another muscle we just need to flex?”
Sprawled on the daybed in my office, a plush pouch of catly-ness, she rolls over, stretching cat-arms and legs, exposing her ample, furry belly. Her body is the answer, “It’s all in here, girlfriend.”
November 22, 2002 | Tuesday
A young woman I love is grieving. Having lost a troubled father she never knew well, she’s struggling with how to remember him. On the phone a few days ago, her two children under 5 were coughing, sick with flu they’ve shared with her. Her partner, recovering from a run-in with a deer on a rural road, is a nurturing voice to their little ones while she speaks through sobs. The universe is abundant, but not always in the way we’d like, yes?
She’s stuck on the mental image of her father’s last moments. When the body dies, it’s not pretty.
Today is my parent’s anniversary, though they are both long gone. In the corner by my desk, two photos side-by-side of them—one, a black-and-white image of young parents-to-be, and the other, in color, of them on my wedding day. They look happy together, but mostly they weren’t. If time is the bridge between those two pictures, then the water that flowed below it was a cascade of loss and long, barren stretches of dry, stony stream-bed.
On that phone call, listening to the young voice of grief, suddenly my parents came to me as real as the sound of my pencil scribbling this sentence on paper. My father, then my mother. But. They didn’t arrive in the way I wanted them at all, no, each was in their final hour. Each face, a death mask, obscuring the lively, creative beings they were. For a moment, I felt that old anguish.
“When the body dies, it’s not pretty, but the body isn’t the being,” I say through the phone to this mother, barely more than a girl herself. “The energy and spirit that was your father is so much than his death.“
“Go back into your memory,” I offer, “pull out how it felt when he was vibrant and laughing with you and your brother. See that moment in detail, the sounds of laughing, the way the light fell around all of you, the nearby trees or the shape of the room, the scent of food or muddy boots, whatever you can recall, feeling into all you experienced with him. Hold on to that truth of who he was and who you were together in that moment. Let that story be so strong it eclipses the dark image that haunts you now. That is the story to carry into the future, to share with your babies when they’re old enough to listen.”
As I hung up, a shift. My parents became the best of who they were.
I saw my father with his silvery beard and plaid, flannel shirt in his basement, surrounded by tomato plants and orchids under grow lights, then doing a little jig in my old kitchen, breathing fast, smiling as if his feet were utterly surprising, lifting him up, spinning him on the tile.
I heard my mother humming to herself, hunched over a quilt, urging a needle through layers of fabric, then the whispered, “dammit, ack!, don’t bleed now,” as the prick, the too-quick lunge of point pierced a finger tip, then her looking up at me, examining my face as if another creative project to be worked on, saying, “I saw a hairdo in a magazine that would look good on you.”
November 23, 2002 | Wednesday
Awake, drinking tap water in the middle of the night, gulping, my thirsty throat is loud. From the bedroom, my husband’s wispy voice, “I hear a dark horse, knocking on the door.” I think he’s being funny, but when I peer into the room, he’s asleep.
The moon is asleep, too. The woods beyond the window, black-limbed.
In bed, drifting back into that nightly oblivion, a dark horse arrives in our forest looking for something, poking his head into the old, huge redwood stumps, nosing the ferns, shoeless hooves raking rotting leaves and rusty fir needles, rearing up on his back legs letting out an urgent whinny and frustrated snort as if to summon . . . to summon what?
Come morning, this knowing, a chill in my legs. Don’t let him in.
November 24, 2002 | Thursday (US Thanksgiving)
A Thanksgiving bee! “What are you doing here? Your furry yellow vest must be warmer than it looks.”
A line from poet-philosopher Mark Nepo comes to me, “Are we grains of Spirit put here to pollinate each other?”
Deciding what to wear for an afternoon with friends and roast beasts, I’m inspired, picking a red shirt with a giant sunflower on it. “Brave bee, does this shirt shout ‘pollinate me’? Does it make me seem a little needy for shared spirit and sweetness?”
Later, on a cliff above the ocean with a deck our friends nicknamed Abalone Lounge, the sun, as if another bright bee, hovers in the sound of calm ocean swells and the buzzing of human voices.
I invite an ailing but happy elder-dog with dreadlocks to sit beside me. Almost my size, she lets me kiss her dog cheek. Her lanky, pink tongue reaches out, finding me. Poodle pollinator, I think. Together we squint into the sun, which is warm, stealthy, creeping toward the horizon when no one’s looking.
Eventually she ambles off to follow her favorite human into the house. One by one, friends head to the long table of food and conversation, which is how you say love without needing to say love.
It’s just me and what’s now a ruddy sun, showing off its range of colors. Salmon, mango, faded blueberry—the hues making me hungry. Then a subtle green spilling low across the sky, just above the sea where the sun has sunk.
As if watching a magic trick or mystical transformation, the sky, the water, all those colors become a hummingbird dangling before me, chirping, then landing on a shrubby branch nearby. I think of my client R and how we explored whether a stone could become a dove.
We dwell in what’s probable, which lives in what’s possible.
“If you believe in blossoms,” I whisper to the hummer, to the horizon, to whatever spirit exists when everyone is gone, “you will always find nectar, even when you think it’s too late or too cold.”
November 25, 2002 | Friday
Spitting wood is a spiritual practice. Perfection when the blade finds the secret place in the dry wood, and it opens with one, right, weighted tap—a pure ringing through dusk and cold. Firewood music. From one splintery length, two, then four pieces of kindling.
Last week, it wasn’t a ringing, but a surprised larva, a beetle grub, who’d burrowed into a nice thick log only to find herself suddenly exposed and nosing night air. Okay, not a nose, but a tiny terracotta face so powerful it can turn a limb or log into a hidden apartment, hollow rooms the size of a thumb to pass a Pacific Northwest winter.
Concerned she’d freeze, I’d turn the open face of the wood into a pile of dead redwood needles, under the shelter of the woodshed’s eve.
Checking on her now, expecting an empty chamber, I roll over the log. Surprise, there she is, snuggled deeper, covered in a fine sawdust. “Namaste, Beetle-to-be. Let’s both stay warm tonight.”
November 26 - 27, 2002 | Saturday & Sunday
Last year, all of us thinking it would be my husband’s last Christmas, and now, the gift of at least one more. Old rituals are a way of slowing down this life that unfolds always too fast.
So, today I’m a fir-seeker, heading into our forested yard in search of a Christmas tree for him, for me, for our cats who’ll be giddy when they find a 10-foot fir in the house, the likely stray spider, stowed away, slinking down on it’s string like the ultimate toy.
I pick a pudgy, slightly lopsided Doug fir growing into a looming redwood where it really can’t succeed.
Electric chainsaw to knobby trunk, I open the tree, sap and a spruce-y scent wonderfully pungent. Smelling the burn of blurred chain eating wood, I watch the friction for sparks, pausing to let us all cool. Soon, there, the inner rings. The tree’s last bit of bark lets go. The sound, a soft shush, into ferns and salal.
Thank you, my mind offers to the downed green being. We’re grateful for you. We’ll give you plenty of water, and you’ll hear music. You’ll be luminous, colored light all over you. We’ll admire you, lavishing you with silvery dangles and gold ribbons, hanging ornamental owls, deer, bear, a couple of cats, and one raffia raccoon from your limbs.
Hauling the tree uphill to the house, I can’t help wishing, Let my last month of living and dying be like that.