Friday, October 8, 2010


I spent the weekend out on the island of Islesford, also known as Little Cranberry, that sits just off Mount Desert where Acadia National Park is. The first weekend in October, it was beautiful out there, quiet with all the summer folk gone. Donna and Stacie had come back for a long weekend in order to make this trip with me. In September of 2008, while Jim still seemed OK but probably had tumors growing in his beautiful head, we all had gone out to Islesford for five days and stayed in the house owned by our good friends. The cabin sits right on the rocky beach where the surf rolls in and tumbles the granite and feldspar rocks to smooth, round gems. All day and night the rythmic symphony of these rocks rolling against each other with each wave is heard. Such a soothing and wonderful song.

We arrived in the fog and therefore unable to see much beyond the bow of the ferry. A friend of mine recently reminded me that I once told her, while she and I walked on a beach in a dense fog, how much I love being in fog because it forces you to be so present since you can't see much beyond where you are right now, no images of the beach in front of you or what is behind you. No future to contemplate, no past either really. I thought of this as the ferry powered out to the island, tried to get philosophical about life, tried to stay very present and not think or worry about my future ... though I can't let go of my past.

The three of us this year were taking the remainder of Jim's ashes out to that rocky beach and, together, would spread the last of Jim's earthly remains into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of our beloved Maine. I had also spread some of his ashes at almost 13,000 feet when I did the long hike in Telluride, Colorado. It seems right that Jim is now part of the carbon cycle in the rocky mountains and the rocky beach of Maine.

"Ashes to ashes and dust to dust" .... that bag of ashes was odd. I got thinking how all of Jim's molecules were in there, all his bones, his gorgeous muscles, his beautiful blue eyes and "Irish mug" of a nose, even his brain - all carbon compost now. But what of his mind? Ah, his mind is not carbon now. I've been contemplating this concept of the 'mind' and would love to hear ideas any of you may have and would like to share with me. Is the "mind" the soul? Is the "mind" our very essence? Jim's wonderful "mind" is how I remember him; his intelligence, his sensitivity and love of the world and all that is in it. Just a few thoughts this gorgeous October morning.

Bittersweet. It was. The three of us, Donna, Stacie and I, had a very relaxing and wonderful stay out there though we all felt the absence of Jim very deeply and profoundly. Jim was the extrovert and would always be sharing his ideas or be spontaneous and fun and could get us all laughing until tears streamed down our cheeks. There was a lot more silence this trip, a lot more just starring out to sea, a lot more solo walks on the beach. This was all very good for each of us ... it was a sweet time out there this year, laced with the bitterness of our loss.

"I'm looking way out to the ocean
Love to watch that green water in motion ...

I will always love you
Hands alike
Magnet and Iron
The souls."

Joni Mitchell

Loving you all back,


  1. Oooh the final frontier of brain science: What's the mind? Dominant theory: It's the result of a massive brain so complex and so socially tuned that it's able to consider even its self.

  2. Mary, you brought tears to my eyes.
    I wish I could visit this place in MAINE.

  3. I suspect Jim is very happy you did this for him. Helping him settle his earthly soul so that he can travel on to the next spirit level. Beautiful.

  4. So glad you got to go to Islesford and that some of Jim's ashes are spread into the ocean from there. I will most definately think of him when I go "home" next time. Would love for you to have met my Mom while you were there. She has a really good soul. I think you would connect with her.

  5. HH - I thought you might have some insight on this topic, love!

    Simone - trust me, you would LOVE this island. It's simply gorgeous

    Rhonda - Ah, wonderful image from you. Thank you

    Kelly - I would look your mum up in a heartbeat!!! I'd love to meet her. Next time!

  6. Hi Mary, I have been adjusting to adding a job to my life and have not been as good at keeping up with things...I didn't know when we sat together last night what you had been doing on the island this weekend. My heart is full of so much love for you and for Jim. I too miss that wacky, loving, arms wide open man. You are such a love to share so much of your pain, your journey, and your what the hell do I do now, with the big wide world. I hope your answers come when you need them to. And I hope I can find a way to be more present with you too.
    love, Margo

  7. Mary, I can't think of a better place to have spread Jim's ashes. Islesford is one of my favorite places so spreading Jim's ashes has special meaning for me as well. I will make sure I sail there next summer with both you and Jim in my thoughts. Love you both forever. Dave

  8. Ah, the mind. For Buddhists (and anyone with a natural inquisitiveness), it’s a key question. I think it’s something to definitely look into from your own direct experience, rather than try to seek out an opinion or idea – such as it’s our soul (from a particular religious point of view) or it’s just a phenomenon of the brain (from a particular scientific point of view.) Those may or may not be aspects of our mind – and partly depend on semantics.

    But for me what’s most helpful is simply exploring it. This simple sense of knowing that is so intimate, no matter what the content of our experience. And also its vastness. Is there really a place where it stops and something else begins? Or does it embrace everything? Where do our thoughts, perceptions, feelings – our sense of an seemingly interior self and a seemingly exterior world – occur? Within this knowing?

    A simple exercise that some find helpful is to simply notice: Where do thoughts arise? Or, where do thoughts dissolve? Not trying to figure it out, but relaxing and seeing if you can notice that, following a thought back to its source or to its point of dissolution. Then maybe resting in that place of arising or dissolving, even just for a timeless instant. And, as you get used to this, maybe also noticing where do thoughts abide, while they seem to appear? (By “thoughts,” in Buddhist meditation, we mean mental thoughts as well as feelings and emotions, anything that arises in our awareness.)

    For myself, the more I explore in this way, the more it seems that my “mind” or maybe I should say my “awareness” is not limited to the body. Nor is it something that is so clearly “mine” distinct from yours. It’s more a shared knowing, the way right now I am writing something that you can then read. But it’s beyond the content of what I’m writing and you're reading. It includes that, but what is even more basic is the simple shared knowing.

    In a way, it’s like how Jim, for example, would have a twinkle in his eye, a gleam, no matter how hard he might have been struggling with words, that would reflect the light within you. To me, if anything’s visible as “essence,” that’s it. But of course that gleam is just an outer expression of something that seems far vaster and more mysterious. And I think the more you become intimate with that “within yourself,” the more you tap into what you share with everyone. That raises an interesting question: Can that ever die?