Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

When poet Donald Hall met with sculptor Henry Moore, he dared to ask if Moore believed that there was a secret to life. The response astonishes: “The secret of life,” Moore answered without flinching, “is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is- it must be something you cannot possibly do.”

Imagine the courage behind these tasks. By what sacred story are you living? What task have you set for yourself? Can you tell your life story, accomplish your task, from where you are?

If you’re uncertain, turn over in you mind philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s reflection that “religion is what we do with our solitude.” Where your heart wanders during those chambered moments will show you the direction of your true longing. We speak of God and geniuses and heroes and sacred sites, but these are only names for the ineffable mystery of the force behind something our souls long to be in touch with. No practical philosophy explains this urge. It is a force from the mysterious shadow world that may in turn long for us.

~ Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred


Source: Thank you Make Believe Boutique. Portrait via Phil Cousineau

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

“So, what are you going to do with the rest of your life?”

I’d never heard that question before, hovering close to cliché and thumping me with its gravity at the same time…

“What do you think of the moment before you sleep?”…

“Why don’t you tell me about a dream?”…

“The dream is asking you the same question as I am, because it’s the only question . . .”

~ A. K. Benjamin, from his new book titled Let Me Not Be Mad: My Story of Unraveling Mind (Dutton, June 11, 2019)


Photo: (via poppins-me)

Driving I-95 North. Private One-Hour Conversation.

Tuesday.  It’s late. It’s been a long day. I glance at my smart watch, 4,500 steps, well short of 10,000 target. Should have walked across town and taken the train. No you shouldn’t have.  Air is heavy. Feels like mid-August.  My head swims from the second glass of red wine. I walk half way up the block and back, while I wait.  4,935 steps. Well that’s Something.

I’m in back seat of car. Phone rings. Work. The call carries on. Something is off.  Antennae go up. I can feel him. Driver is listening. I’m conscious of my words. I shift to deeper code, quickly end the call, and set the phone in my bag. I sit quietly. Irritated. No privacy anywhere. Rude.

It’s silent in the cabin, air blows cool. Tension seems to rise a few clicks in the silence. You’re just tired. It’s all in your head Pal.

He breaks the silence.

“Sir, what is it that you do?” I’m wary about my response, but I respond, and at 100,000 feet. He’s not getting anything out of me.

“How long have you been doing it?” I respond curtly.

“That’s a long time.”  At this point, I feel I need to take control of the conversation.  “Why do you ask?” [Read more…]

Driving I-95 North. T.G.I.F. (Almost)

 

5:29 a.m.
Cruising down I-95.
Left lane open as far as the eye can see.
David Sanborn is blowing his Sax with The Dream.
Waze estimates 21 minutes to the office.
I put Sanborn on repeat. Wish I could play the Sax. Or have the talent to play any damn thing.
I arrive 2 minutes early.
Building is quiet but for the shuffling of the Security Guards an hour from a shift change.
Floor is silent but for the buzz of the overhead lights.
I get settled.
And get after the backlog of emails.
No phone calls. No meetings. No interruptions.
I glance at my watch, 90 minutes. Wow. And, Mailbox Zero achieved.
I lean back in my chair. Close my eyes.
It’s going to be a good day. No, it’s going to be a Great Day!
I stand up to stretch.
Take a few steps around my office. Something is off.
Take a few more steps. There’s an imbalance here.
I look down, and the buckle on my right shoe has detached and is flopping from side to side.

I check my calendar to see how many meetings I have outside of my office. Too many.

I walk to meetings. I’m lopsided. Clasp is banging from one side to the other. I can feel their eyes on my shoes.

I walk back to my office. Like a horse training for dressage, foot up, pause, trying to avoid the swinging of the buckle. This can’t go on much longer. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think,
I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside
remembering all the times you’ve felt that way, and
you walk to the bathroom, do your toilet, see that face
in the mirror, oh my oh my oh my, but you comb your hair anyway,
get into your street clothes, feed the cats, fetch the
newspaper of horror, place it on the coffee table, kiss your
wife goodbye, and then you are backing the car out into life itself,
like millions of others you enter the arena once more.

you are on the freeway threading through traffic now,
moving both towards something and towards nothing at all as you punch
the radio on and get Mozart, which is something, and you will somehow
get through the slow days and the busy days and the dull
days and the hateful days and the rare days, all both so delightful
and so disappointing because
we are all so alike and so different.

you find the turn-off, drive through the most dangerous
part of town, feel momentarily wonderful as Mozart works
his way into your brain and slides down along your bones and
out through your shoes.

it’s been a tough fight worth fighting
as we all drive along
betting on another day.

Charles Bukowski, “Gamblers All” in  The Night Torn Mad With Footsteps


Notes: Portrait of Bukowski by Patrick Jarnoux / Paris Match via Getty Images via PBS News Hour. Poem: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels

Miracle. All of it.

Right now your heart is beating in utter darkness inside your chest.

~ Francis Weller, in The Geography Of SorrowFrancis Weller On Navigating Our Losse


Notes:

  • Sources: Quote – Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo Credit
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.
  • Inspiration: Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
  • Inspiration: “For the heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops.” – Karl Ove Knausgård, My Struggle: Book 1.

Sunday Morning: Invocation

Architect of icebergs, snowflakes,
crystals, rainbows, sand grains, dust motes, atoms.

Mason whose tools are glaciers, rain, rivers, ocean.

Chemist who made blood
of seawater, bone of minerals in stone, milk

of love. Whatever

You are, I know this,
Spinner, You are everywhere, in All The Ever-
Changing Above, whirling around us.

Yes, in the loose strands,
in the rough weave of the common

cloth threaded with our DNA on hubbed, spoked
Spinning Wheel that is this world, solar system, galaxy,

universe.

Help us to see ourselves in all creation,
and all creation in ourselves, ourselves in one another.

Remind those of us who like connections
made with similes, metaphors, symbols
all of us are, everything is
already connected.

Remind us as oceans go, so go we. As the air goes, so go we.
As other life forms on Earth go, so go we.

As our planet goes, so go we. Great Poet,
who inspired In The Beginning was The Word . . . ,

Everett Hoagland, from “Invocation” in Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (University of Georgia Press, 2018)


Notes: Poem via 3 Quarks Daily. Photo: coolultramodernesolitude (via Newthom)

Miracle. All of it.

Hello, welcome.

My name is Julie Yip-Williams. I am grateful and deeply honored that you are here. This story begins at the ending. Which means that if you are here, then I am not. But it’s okay.

My life was good and my life was complete. It came to so much more than I ever thought possible, or than my very humble beginnings would have given me the right to expect. I was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an immigrant, a cancer patient, a lawyer, and now a writer. I tried to live always with good intentions and a good heart, although I am sure I have hurt people along the way. I tried my best to live a full, rewarding life, to deal with the inevitable trials with grace, and to emerge with my sense of humor and love for life intact. That’s all. Even though I am dying in my early forties, and leaving my precious children behind, I am happy.

My life was not easy. That I survived infancy was something of a miracle, that I made it to America, also a miracle. Being born poor and blind in Vietnam on the losing side of a bloody civil war should have defined my life and sealed my fate. Those things marked me, but they did not stop me. Dying has taught me a great deal about living—about facing hard truths consciously, about embracing the suffering as well as the joy. Wrapping my arms around the hard parts was perhaps the great liberating experience of my life.

Directly or indirectly, we all experience the hard parts. The events that we hear about on the news or from friends, those tragedies ending in death that happen to other people in other places, which make us sad but also relieved and grateful as we think, There but for the grace of God…—destructive hurricanes and earthquakes, violent shootings and explosions, car accidents, and of course, insidious illnesses. These things shake us to the core because they remind us of our mortality, of how impotent we truly are in the face of unseen forces that would cause the earth to tremble or cells to mutate and send a body into full rebellion against itself.

I set out here to write about my experience of that, both the life lived and the trials endured—neither comprehensively, you understand, but enough to fully show you the distance I traveled and the world in which I made my life. And what began as a chronicle of an early and imminent death became—if I may be very presumptuous—something far more meaningful: an exhortation to you, the living.

Live while you’re living, friends.

From the beginning of the miracle, to the unwinding of the miracle.

Julie Yip-Williams, February 2018

~ Julie Yip-Williams, “Prologue” from The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything that Comes After (Random House, February 5, 2019)


Notes:

Oh, so much Truth…

Our house is quiet at night, I seem to be hearing dog paws on the stairs, but the dog lies sprawled asleep on the floor next to the bed. Maybe I’m hearing the dog we had before the one we have now? I don’t think people linger on after death, but I wonder whether dogs do. And that we can hear them scuffling about for many years after they’re gone.

Linn Ullmann, ”Unquiet: A Novel” (W. W. Norton & Company, January 15, 2019)


Photo of our Zeke on 11/17/14 (RIP).

Miracle. All of It.

“The hospital corridors were quiet, the midwife was quiet. She whispered—that’s how I remember it—that I needed to see the doctor and have an ultrasound. She helped me gather my things and sent us even farther down the corridor. I remember lying on the doctor’s examining table in a dark cubicle, only the ultrasound machine emitting light. I remember covering my face with my hands. After a while, the doctor touched my arm. “Look,” he said. My husband took my hand in his. The doctor pointed at the screen and moved his finger carefully around the sonogram, as though showing us a rare map, and then, because we couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing and what he was telling us, he turned up the sound so we could hear the steady beating of the heart…”

Linn Ullmann, ”Unquiet: A Novel” (W. W. Norton & Company, January 15, 2019)


Notes:

  • Photo of sonogram: Kim Pham
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.
  • Inspiration: Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
%d bloggers like this: