Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Lights

I took an early morning walk this morning with Rosie.  Now that we live in Temple one, or both, of us will walk every morning with this sweet little dog we have.  This morning I went alone and savored the time before my busy work day. 

I walk along one of the two streams that confluence on this property we are stewards of.  The path twists and turns with the tinkling and gurgling of the stream flowing strong over jagged rocks and downed trees.  It's incredibly beautiful.  Today one of Joni Mitchell's songs, Electricity, came to me with this line being most appropriate:

I'm learning,
It's peaceful
With a good dog and some trees
Out of touch with the break down of the century

This space, this land, these trees nestled into the valley of three mountains makes it very easy to get out of touch with the break down of the current century.  On the full moon last month I found myself wide awake at 3:30 a.m. I slipped from the warm bed and put the coffee on.  The moon was so brilliant that I didn't need to put on a single light, and the world outside my big windows was shimmering in the blue-white light of that moon.  I got my coffee, stoked the stove and sat down in front of the window.  From there I watched that moon make it's way across the very top of the mountains ridge.  For an hour I watched the moon move until it slipped down into the notch of the two mountains and disappeared from my sight.  The light continued to glow, illuminating the few wispy clouds that nestled there.  There was still so much blue-white light it looked like a large city was pulsing on the other side of that ridge.

Recently I woke as the first light of dawn was seeping into the valley and across the lake that I can see from my bedroom windows.  The lake looked like molten silver as it reflected this early, gray light.  But the first rays of the sun always hit the top of the mountains, glowing rose and fuschia up there before the sun climbs higher and spreads into the fields below.  The last of the Oak leaves still clinging to the branches shimmer with a copper glow on some mornings ... and I walk to the windows and breathe in this light and I forget about the break down of this century.

I worry there is much that is broken lately; in our politics, in the candidates who are asking for my vote in order to lead this country down a path I fear.  A path  that I see paved with greed, dishonesty and intolerance of others. I'm told this will be the break down of one of our political parties and this will lead to a resurgence of something better.

I listen.  And I watch this months waxing moon.  I walk into the woods and along the stream allowing the noise of the world to wash away with the babble of the water beside me.  I slow down, and quiet my mind and seek the peace that is within me.  I'm learning ... with a good dog and some trees ... how to stay out of touch with the break down of the century.

This Christmas I ask that you may find your own peace from within.  That you might stop and look up to notice the moon that grows towards full for the birth of the Christian God on the 25th. That you might find a wooded path, or one tree, to sit under and take a moment to simply be; to take a moment and get out of touch.

My wish this Christmas is that more people will begin to learn that this holiday is a Christian holiday that celebrates LOVE, and that each and every religion honored by all the other humans on this planet also worship a God and have celebrations that are about LOVE.  My wish for the coming 2016 is that LOVE trumps the anger and the hate that we are seeing far too much of.  

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.  So I go to find my inner peace and ask that we
all just walk the same walk...

 ... with a good dog and some trees.

Loving you all back,


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Hey Jude

Judy, son Marcus, and his wife Jana
On Monday, August 3rd I headed to our homestead in Temple where we continue to work on the house in hopes of moving out there this fall.  As I drove across the bridge over the Sandy River in town a huge adult eagle flew directly over my windshield.  I know there is a mated pair who claim territory on this river as well as a two year old juvenile still hanging about.  Still it always has my heart skip a beat and then soar whenever I see one of these magnificent birds.

This day my job was to continue to stack our wood pile that lies outside on the ground into a shed and under cover for the winter coming.  At one point in my hauling and stacking I stopped for some water and looked up at the clouds, a frequent pass time for me out there.  Today the mountain was building thunder heads.  There, soaring very high was an Eagle riding the thermals.  Ah, two sightings in one day, fabulous!  I went back to work.  After several hours of stacking I called it quits, took my dog and went to the lake for a swim.  On our return I laid on the deck in the shade of a Maple tree and enjoyed the summer breeze blowing over me, cooling and drying me from my morning of hard labor.  As I opened my eyes directly in my line of sight was another Eagle soaring higher and higher into that towering  thunder head still forming over the mountains.

"What is going on in the Universe that I get to see three Bald Eagles in one day?  Something is happening somewhere" was all I could think.  I remembered Stanford Addison, the Arapaho medicine man who conducted the sweat lodge for me in Wyoming only months after Jim had passed, saying, "Eagles man, they see what's needed, they look straight through you.  Give them your prayers, they take them straight up."  And so, this day, I sent a prayer straight up.

Monday night, back in Farmington, I got an email from a dear friend of mine, Mick.  He informed me that he had lost his wife, Judy, earlier that day.  I went into shock and then curled over and assumed the fetal position and wailed.  Mick and Judy, I've known them over 25 years, two people I love like family.  My heart ached and felt like it had been ripped from me.

That night, a short time after getting this news from Mick, those thunderheads released their energy with a severe storm complete with bolts of lightening streaking down between the houses here in town, powerful winds bending and whipping the trees back and forth and a pelting rain coming sideways.  Dave and I sat outside under the cover of the porch just holding each other.  All I could think was, "even the heavens are raging against this!" 

Judy, or Jude, as Mick always called her, is one of the few people who when I think of her all I see is a huge smile and all I hear is laughter.  Judy, who may have been the only person who could have moved me off my sisters couch where I collapsed after Jim's memorial service.  I was beyond exhausted and could only sit on this couch with immediate family and my closest friends gathered.  But, my niece is lead singer in a band, The Awesome, and they were playing that night in Portland.  Judy said to me, "We have to go hear Jennywren sing and you have to come Mary!"
"I do? Really? "
"YES! You really do!" she said with her laugh.
Judy and I, center stage on the dance floor

And so I went, we all went, and we all danced and sang and we closed the bar.  I don't think anyone but Judy could have convinced me to move again and to go out that night.

"Hey Jude, take a sad song and make it better ... "

I have a ton of stories filled with crazy adventures, laughter and love that involves Judy, Mick and their family.  Such fabulous memories.  She was such a wonderful woman and friend

It's been a difficult week for me since last Monday, but certainly not as hard or as bad as the week that her family has had to endure ... or the lifetime that remains now without this amazing woman.
I found comfort in the image that came to me one, sleepless, night this week; I saw my Jim and one of Judy's sons, Jason (who passed last April) together, taking her hand and leading her off with them.  This image is one of peace and love and has me feeling she's OK now, she's with a lot of other loved ones on the other side.  Any pain she was enduring is gone, there is only peace now.

Hey Jude, don't make it bad,
Take a sad song and make it better.
Remember to let her into your heart,
Then you can start to make it better.

Jude, don't be afraid,
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin,
Then you begin to make it better.


I will miss that woman like I miss the summer sunshine.
My youngest sister recently commented to me about how much loss I have had in my life in the last five years.  And it's true.  Yet, these people who filled my life taught me how to love.  And losing them so early is teaching me how to live.

Loving you all back,

Judy and I dancing (and part of Mick)
The Awesome

Judy, Mick, Gunnar, Karmo (my sister) at Jims memorial party

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Heart of Buddha

View from Bald Mountain, Maine
I was out early this morning for a bicycle ride, before the heat and humidity of the day could wilt me.  Climbing up to the ridge that is known as Mosher Hill I could see the western mountain range off in the distance, shimmering in the heat that would be descending later in the day.  This is a respectable climb on my bike, and I was going pretty slow needing to stand on my peddles at times or bounce back down onto my saddle to maintain some kind of momentum so I wouldn't fall over like the tricycle riding comedian of the Laugh-In generation.  It was during this slow climb that Jim came to me.

He does this, pops in at different and unique times, not always associated with an anniversary any more.  Today, as I climbed, I got thinking about his actual passing in Hospice.  We were in Hospice for five days and during this time many people came to our room to sit by Jim, or sit with me on the couches across the room from the bed where Jim lay in his morphine induced coma.  One frequent visitor was our dear friend, Jane Burdick.  Jane is a practicing Buddhist and has been for years.  She became Jim's mentor in his studies and a trusted friend and teacher who helped him find a deeper understanding and appreciation for his own practice.

On one of Jane's visits, after she had sat and meditated beside Jim, she took my hand on her way out and told me to whisper into Jim's ear, "dissolve into the heart of the Buddha".  I thought this was beautiful, and I began to hold this mans hand and, truly believing that hearing is the last thing to go and that Jim was capable of hearing everything, I would whisper into his ear to dissolve into the heart of Buddha.  And then I would kiss that unresponsive hand.

The morning of Jim's passing the night nurse woke me at 3:30 a.m.  She had to shake me pretty hard to get me to wake up.  I had been awake at 2:00 a.m. and all was fine and yet in that hour and a half I fell into a deeper sleep than I may have had over the entire 18 months of Jim's struggle with brain cancer.  Someone had told me this is a phenomena that happens, as though the individual who is passing is able to silence their loved one by putting them into a deep sleep or even to time their passing for when the loved one leaves the room, thus slipping away without the witnessing of that last breath.  I do believe this is what Jim did not only to me but to my good friend, Mary Margaret, who spent her nights at hospice with me. She told me she was also in a very deep sleep even though she had gotten up at 2:30 a.m. to check on Jim.

As this kind nurse woke me she gently whispered, "he's gone" and gave me a hug.  There was an odd feeling of nothingness in me.  I looked at MaryMargaret and said, "what do I do now?"  She suggested I take my time.

Prayer flags, Ladakh India
 I got dressed, called Jim's sisters who were staying at our house during this time and began to pull things together.   The nurse came back in and told me she needed to share with me the experience she had prior to checking on Jim.  She said she was sitting at the computer in the office and heard, "the most unusual, but very beautiful, tinkling bells.  And my first thought was to check on Jim!" (there were many other people in the hospice house at this time, but it was Jim she thought of).

I knew instantly what the tinkling bells were this nurse had heard.   If you have ever held the small, brass, hand cymbals that the Buddhist monks chime during ceremonies you would know the tinkling, but unusual, sound of these bells too.

I began to cry as this nurse squeezed my shoulder and said, "I thought you might want to know this" and left the room.  And thus, I knew that Jim had dissolved into the heart of Buddha.

As I reached the highest point of my climb and traveled along the ridge with that gorgeous view of the mountains I thought ...  now Jim is not only part of the heart of Buddha but he is part of everyone's hearts too.  He is not only part of my heart, but he is in and deeply dissolved into each and every heart of the people who knew and loved  him.  The gold thread of connection now has all of us connected together through and with Jim.

 I knew that Jim wanted me to write this today, wanted me to tell those who will read this to know,  we are all connected by this LOVE.  This LOVE, that is of the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, God, Great Spirit, The Divine ... whatever you want to call it, it is all the same LOVE.  Only humans and their belief systems seek to separate this and alter it to appear different from one another.  But it's not, it is one LOVE, and we are all connected to it.

Loving you all back,

Jim, on the left, in Ladakh India

Thursday, April 9, 2015


April.  It's here and once again I find myself wondering what the heck is happening to my normal calm demeanor.

It doesn't seem to matter what I do or how I try to push these feelings away they still ooze up from my cellular memories and become part of my day.  The beast is circling deep and stirring the waters I guess.  This grief beast no longer surfaces for long and no longer drags me down into the darker depths, but it still nips at me, has me feeling uneasy, restless and with emotions that rip through me like a  polygraph needle, spiking and dipping erratically.

And the reason this always takes me by surprise is because Jim died in May, not April!  When May rolls around and the anniversary of his passing comes I find myself back to normal and feeling fine again.

Grief is a very odd beast.

With this month come flashbacks too.  Yes, flashbacks, as in PTSD flashbacks.  I've been reminded that one doesn't need to have gone to war to have this disorder.  Yesterday I went out to the house in Temple with plans to give Rosie, our new 4 month old pup, a little fun and then go for a run by myself.  After I had walked with Rosie I took her in the house to settle her onto her bedding, but this little dog had other ideas.  She seemed to know my plan to leave her alone and she was not going to allow this to happen today.  She refused to lie on her bedding, staying close to me as I tried to get ready and out the door.  I took her back to her bed and sat down beside her.  I had a nice fire going in the fireplace for her but she insisted on being in my lap.  There she snuggled in, wet and shivering from the long romp out in the snow we had done earlier.  I pulled the old sleeping bag that is now hers up over us and she began her little purring noises.

I couldn't leave her now.  I sat there with the fire going, looking out the big picture windows at the mountains and decided I didn't feel like running anyway.  My motivation and my energy was gone.

Sitting there holding this little puppy I flashed on an April afternoon back when Jim was sick and he was refusing his usual afternoon nap; there were days when he just insisted on being with me every minute.  This was hard for me at times, but I always gave in to him.  This day we went out onto the deck in the sunshine with blankets and pillows.  Propped up against the trunk of the giant Oak tree in the yard Jim fell asleep on my shoulder.  We sat there for a long time and I began to quiet my mind and to relax in the moment ... since there wasn't really much else I could do.  It was then I heard the drumming.  Looking up I was able to locate the small Downy Woodpecker as he rapped on the dead limb high up in the tree over my head.  I continued to just look up and was able to watch "my" crows come and go in the foliage, they believing they were invisible, but I was aware and seeing.  I could see how the spring buds were swelling now and turning a pale pink as the sap flooded up from the roots and into the tops of the trees.   As I looked up I felt terrified of what my future held for me.  Terrified that this man who I loved so deeply was now reduced to being more like a child ... and I felt very alone on that spring morning.

My puppy adjusted herself and I came back to Temple.  There was an odd metallic drumming happening so I looked out to the old barn where a rusty gallon drum lays on it's side.  Perched on top was the bright red head of the Hairy Woodpecker and he was slamming his bill into the metal drum.  It didn't seem to be attracting any females but he continued to pound out his beat for several, painful looking drills.  Eventually he flew off to find a hollow log I assumed.

As the fire crackled and popped and Rosie slept I watched the gray storm clouds of the predicted snow darken and drop in over the mountain tops.  I saw the first Turkey Vultures of the season soaring on the wind currents flooding off the mountain; such big birds I always think "Eagle!"  But those wing tips tilted up to form a V and that distinctive wobbling back and forth pattern of their flight tells me it's the Vulture.

My attention was quickly brought to eye level as a flash of red streaked by and landed in a nearby birch tree.  The male Cardinal, so needed in these north woods to brighten our spirits and offer us their geranium blossom color in this gray and white season.  I flashback to a blog I had written one spring about red flags and their warning signs and how I will never let slight personality changes be passed off as anxiety or stress.  Could I have saved him if I had noticed the red flags flying?  Could I have changed his destiny?

Rosie stirred, awake now and I was ready to pack up and head back into town.  I haven't sat quietly  without a computer or cell phone or even a pad and pencil in my hands for a long time.  Just me and my thoughts and my view of that wonderful world I'm so in love with these days out in Temple.  I felt better, a little grounded, a little more ready to let the beast nip at me again if it must ... the memories aren't all that horrible after all.  There are some really sweet ones in me.  And I have this new life and  new memories being created even today.  I don't know how I got so blessed but I hope never to take it for granted.

This is a gift that this grief brings with it, the deep pain of real loss and the difficult flashbacks. But now there is also this whole new depth of gratitude and understanding that making this moment and this new life with the memories of today
really count. 

Loving you all back,

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Winter Gems

"My Mountain" (also known as Varnum Mountain)
This morning broke with bright sunshine, blue sky and a temperature in the single digits.  Since I didn't need to be in the office until the afternoon I decided to head out to the land in Temple for an early morning xc ski by myself.

This land we bought has old logging trails and discontinued roads that border it and are used by ski mobiles in the winter.  There are hundreds of miles of these trails that are interconnected throughout the woods in Maine.  Many are run by local "sled clubs", which is true of the trails that exist a quarter of a mile in front of the house.  Well traveled, they make for great skiing without  the arduous task of breaking trail.  On an early Wednesday morning there would not be much traffic so I knew I would have the woods all to myself.

The snow sounded like Styrofoam as I glided down the lake towards the trail.  I love being out in winter as the signs of all the others who live here with me on this land are easily seen.  I followed the tracks of a little fox for a quarter mile before they veered off into the woods.  I picked up another padded track that was larger than the fox, probably a coyote.   This morning I wanted to go in a new direction and take a trail we hadn't explored yet.  At the first junction at one corner of our land I headed east..  Most of the trails on this land begin with a climb to ascend out of the valley.  This morning I didn't mind climbing first thing since it helped to warm me up;  the air was sharp on my face and my fingers were already numb.  Along this new slope I noted another kind of track, small, about 1 inch wide with distinct claws.  Tiny little tracks that never veered from the hard packed sled trail.  Further up the trail I saw the tracks leaped up the bank and disappear into the roots of one of the Poplar trees; I noted the fresh scat just outside this doorway.  I was surprised this little Mink would make it's home right beside this well traveled snow mobile trail but as I thought on this more I realized how smart this was ... the snow is damn deep this year with very little crust to support even a small Mink, traveling the packed trails saves a lot of energy.  Like me, this little gal didn't want to break her own trail and work too hard!

I climbed this hill for another half hour, up to where the trees opened up and I had a new view of the mountains that form my valley.  Having grown up on the ocean I am learning that mountains are as dynamic as the sea.  In the house we are rehabbing, we have sat looking out the picture windows and watched clouds dance on the top of Varnum mountain.  The wispy gasses of the cooler air aloft hit this large land mass and get held back, allowing them to gather strength and finally escape to billow down over the sides of the mountain or reach out towards the lake; spreading fingers across the sky that catch the scarlet rays of the setting sun and turn into fiery wisps.

Today, however, there was not a cloud in the sky and still these mountains command my attention. I stopped often to just look up at the blue of the sky above these peaks.  Directly over head the sky was the color of blue sapphire, but over the more distant mountains it turned a gorgeous aquamarine.  The evergreens still hold large clumps of  snow that look like huge, white, dangling pearls that are strung along the dark green branches.  The blanket of snow that dresses the sides of the mountain shimmer even brighter against that sapphire sky.

 There is such silence out there in those woods.  Today I brought another dear friend along with me in my thoughts as she faces a new challenge, one of chemo and radiation, surgery and more attempts to kill her before they hope to have her heal.  She would have loved being out there with me today and probably would have whipped my ass climbing the hills!  Today I want to embrace my ability to go out to these woods and to just be in that silence and all that blue.  Today I want to honor the friendships I have and to bring some of this blue brilliance back with me to share with one who is struggling.

Today I found winter gems with priceless beauty all around me.

Loving you all back,