It is polarizing, and it is peaceful

Britain G8 Foreign Ministers

I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt. I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren.

I called my husband in France, who was on a plane within hours. The beautiful thing about such moments in life is that there is so much clarity. You know what you live for and what matters. It is polarizing, and it is peaceful.

~ Angelina Jolie Pitt, in The Diary of A Surgery upon learning of the threat of ovarian cancer


Image: huffington post

Gulping down undigested experiences

fingers,

As it is, we are merely bolting our lives—gulping down undigested experiences as fast as we can stuff them in—because awareness of our own existence is so superficial and so narrow that nothing seems to us more boring than simple being. If I ask you what you did, saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted yesterday, I am likely to get nothing more than the thin, sketchy outline of the few things that you noticed, and of those only what you thought worth remembering. Is it surprising that an existence so experienced seems so empty and bare that its hunger for an infinite future is insatiable? But suppose you could answer, “It would take me forever to tell you, and I am much too interested in what’s happening now.” How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such a fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself as anything less than a god? And, when you consider that this incalculably subtle organism is inseparable from the still more marvelous patterns of its environment—from the minutest electrical designs to the whole company of the galaxies—how is it conceivable that this incarnation of all eternity can be bored with being?


Notes:

Yet, another miracle.

eclipse-moon-solar-eclipse-sun-norway

“The moon blots out the sun during a total solar eclipse over Longyearbyen on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean on Friday. The total eclipse was only visible on Svalbard and the Faeroe Islands.”

Source: wsj.com: Photos of the Day March 20, 2015. By Jon Olav Nesvold, Reuters.

 

Flying over I-95 N. Sometimes, you gotta go.

Airplane-Lavatory-Door

We are lifting off on flight #2395 heading back north.

I sneak a last peak at my smartphone, a text message from home:

It’s windy (very) here.  Expect a bumpy descent into NY. 

Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers comes to mind. Help! Thanks! Wow!  Thank YOU for the soothing send-off. My fingers are on the keys to fire back a rocket. I decide against it. What incredible restraint you have shown. And yet, so unlike you. I sit and ponder whether I’ve finally matured in Middle Age. Shake my head. An aberration from the mean. I’ll get the final word when I get home.

And, it’s choppy.

The beverage cart is rolled cautiously down the aisle. It is now a “beverage” cart. There are no longer any complimentary snacks on two and half hour flights. It is noted that the seats still recline, and they are complimentary as part of the ticket purchase.

I ask for a Diet Coke. It will dissolve a nail and here you are fueling your tank. She offers me the entire can. Just drink half.  Do it.  I slug it back, all of it, like a thirsty sailor. There are no napkins, those cost extra, so I wipe the spillage with my shirt sleeve. Class.

And, it’s choppy.

As the plane lurches up and down and left and right, the soda sloshes around. The Oxidation process is well under way, my intestines groan.  In my youth, my bowels could swell up like a dirigible and I would feel no discomfort – a light balloon drifting in a summer breeze. No longer. A whiff of dew and he’s a boogie-eyed meerkat on look out for the toilet.

And, it’s choppy.

Expect a bumpy descent into NY. We’re still one and half hours away.

There are core foundational principles with air travel. On the top of this list: “Avoid the Lavatory.” Unless you are ready to explode, don’t do it. Why do they call it a lavatory? Lavatory. It sounds like Def: A location where medical research is being conducted. But it is def: A room with a toilet and sink. AND LAYERS OF JUMPIN’ BACTERIA. The best outcome here is avoidance. Period. There is no close second.

And, it’s choppy. [Read more…]

The second half of my life will be ice breaking up on the river, rain soaking the fields

middle age,

The second half of my life will be black
to the white rind of the old and fading moon.
The second half of my life will be water
over the cracked floor of these desert years.
I will land on my feet this time,
knowing at least two languages and who
my friends are. I will dress for the
occasion, and my hair shall be
whatever color I please.
Everyone will go on celebrating the old
birthday, counting the years as usual,
but I will count myself new from this
inception, this imprint of my own desire.

The second half of my life will be swift,
past leaning fenceposts, a gravel shoulder,
asphalt tickets, the beckon of open road.
The second half of my life will be wide-eyed,
fingers shifting through fine sands,
arms loose at my sides, wandering feet.
There will be new dreams every night,
and the drapes will never be closed.
I will toss my string of keys into a deep
well and old letters into the grate.

The second half of my life will be ice
breaking up on the river,
rain soaking the fields,
a hand held out,
a fire,
and smoke going upward,
always up.

Joyce Sutphen, “Crossroads” from Straight Out of View


Notes: a) Poem Source: Poem Hunter. b) Image Source: Audrey Nizen. c) Inspired by: Your Eyes Blaze Out

 

A chasing after wind, indeed.

Paul-kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi, MD, was a Stanford neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with lung cancer in his mid-30s. Here’s an excerpt:

[…] Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed. […]

That message is simple: When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.

~ Paul Kalanithi, Stanford University neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, died on March 9, 2015 at the age of 37

Don’t miss the entire article in the Washington Post: Before I Go: A Stanford neurosurgeon’s parting wisdom about life and time


Thank you Elizabeth.

holding it at arm’s length, clutching its shoulders

photography,black and white

You’ve seen the way in which a woman chooses a dress from her closet, then stands before a mirror, holding it at arm’s length, clutching its shoulders as if it were a son she is sending to war, looking him up and down and then drawing him close and pressing him against her breast. And then she sees herself embracing him, and smiles, the two of them looking so perfect together, full of such hope, facing the future.

~ Ted Kooser, The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book


Photograph:  Drowned in Daydreams

Cat’s Left the Cradle 2

hair-long-man

WEDNESDAY. 9:30 PM.
Medium: FaceTime.
600 miles away, Son sits in his dorm room.
(Technology. A Miracle)

Eric: Hi Dad.
Dad: Hi Eric.
Dad: When’s your interview?
Eric: Friday at 8 am.

Dad adjusts his grip on the iPad to get a better look at Son.

Eric: What are you doing?
Dad: Take your cap off.
Eric: Why?
Dad: Take it off.
Eric: Why? (Here he comes. Here he comes.)
Dad: I’m only going to ask you one more time. [Read more…]

For years we grasp and grasp

fist-bump-baby-father

In the baby’s fist is the first thing he owns, a little ball of air, but soon he tires of this and grabs another, then another after that. So early in life we learn about more, and having more. In more it seems we have eternity, and for years we grasp and grasp, until one day we find that we have less. And then life goes and goes, it floats away, and at the end we find our hand is empty, but for one small ball of air.

~ Ted Kooser, The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book


Photograph: John Mueller

But, not yet have I reached that bright life or that white happiness – not yet.

bell-church-monk-russia-kosnichev

Men and women of faith who pray – that is, who come to a certain assigned place, at definite times, and are not abashed to go down on their knees – will not tarry for the cup of coffee or the news break or the end of the movie when the moment arrives. The habit, then, has become their life. What some might call the restrictions of the daily office they find to be an opportunity to foster the inner life. The hours are appointed and named; they are the Lord’s. Life’s fretfulness is transcended. The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition are also teachers. Divine attentiveness cannot be kept casually, or visited only in season, like Venice and Switzerland. Or, perhaps it can, but then how attentive is it? And if you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real. I would like to be like the fox, earnest in devotion and humor both, or the brave, compliant pond shutting its heavy door for the long winter. But, not yet have I reached that bright life or that white happiness – not yet.

~ Mary Oliver, Long Life: Essays and Other Writings


Art: Oldsamovar (Art by Alexanderliech Kosnichev)