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May 04, 2008



I was going to say that an Englishwoman in my walking group on Saturday said the same thing about the weather here - "just like home." But now you've brought tears to my eyes. It's been a tough run for you. Glad you're finding grace in it.

Thank you Dale, Leslee. I know you've both been there yourselves.

Looking for grace feels like my only choice. A while ago I was feeling exhausted and defeated and J. asked me, "what do you want to do?" "Run away," was my immediate answer. "You can't do that," he said - meaning "even if you run, it will follow you - this is life." The truth of it sank in deeper than it has before when I've said it to myself, and it's meant an even-more-deliberate return to meditation and reflection on "now", on being present both to others and to myself. Part of that is knowing when to say "no" and when to pull back and take time for self-preservation, otherwise I'm no help to anyone.

But I'd like to hear from anyone who's been in a similar situation: what's helped you cope?


The creek is flooded to river
with water, swollen like a fresh bruise.
Bodies float down, uninterrupted
with faces turned down
and arms outstretched
like Christ's.

I am like this: flooded to river
with death, death my subject
as water is the creek's,
death the beloved we can
never know though
we are swollen with the waters
of wanting, death, the past,
death, my relative, my father
and mother, the face of my brother,
death's blood in me,
death flooding me
filling the valleys, rising
in the hills of me --

I do not know why we are not crazed,
all of us, at the death of just
one person. I do not know
how we have survived all these
years, all these deaths
that flood us like music or breath.

The creek is beautiful like this,
terrifying or mesmerizing
as fire gone wild.

--Sheryl St. Germain
from *How Heavy is the Breath of God*
(University of North Texas Press, 1994)

Aw Dave.

We just went on a spring float on an out-of-its-banks river. We camped in a woods where there were no great beasts and I woke mad from having no meaning in my fear. I think myself more mad from the absence of death, my predators hunted to extinction I live in oblivion. In the morning as we packed to leave, high in a bare sycamore, a sharp shined hawk devoured the flagging silhouette of a king bird while another king bird lofted and fluttered. The day before, in haste, I grabbed ropes that backed the clutter of nest of wren newborns on my shop shelf. I held a child high to see the chicks craning for food. We came home to find them dead, perhaps abandoned because I had disturbed the nest. So I regard nature as diorama from which I excluded, reading it artfully, thinking of harms I have caused, with none to harm me, with forgiveness.

Whoops, I'm looking down a long road I want to take, but not today. I just stopped by to say I like the fuzzy fotos. I think they connote grace. You are taking what the camera affords, and not asking it to be other than what that is. They are "walking the walk". Thank you Beth.

Thanks a lot for this, Dave, I feel like you probably looked to find exactly the right thing to send me. Pretty visceral - it reminds me (literally) of descriptions of the Euphrates during the Armenian death-march, but metaphorically, of course, it's pretty close to how we feel sometimes. I think we don't go crazy because we aren't in the water ourselves. And it's interesting what it elicited from Bill.

Who is Sheryl St. Germain, and what is this book? Is it all poetry?

Bill - thanks for your story. I think you and I are on the same wavelength - there's all this dying in the world, but we're surviving, we're still walking on the bank of the river. Thanks too for noticing the fuzzy photos. It's deliberate; that's how things feel right now and I was trying to somehow express it.

I too contemplate my uncle’s recent death, my own aging parents who may or may not live much longer, as well as my own old age without children. Yes, loss … for those who pass away and for paths not taken. The meanings that this holds for me varies depending on how close it feels and the season within which it is felt.

I would like think that the way that we live illness and old age, the meanings that we create in the living of it, is the final gift that we give to those around us. It is the gift that my own grandmother gave me at the end of her life, after many strokes had taken away her ability to either read or paint. At these moments I envisage life as an intensely creative process, where meaning is produced through the small gestures of everyday life. If we become more intensely who we are with age, I would like that to be both creative and loving.

Yet I know that the other side of this are those moments of fear and despair, the long journey into night, that haunt me when I am alone. I too know depression – my familiar as I call it – that returns in the dead of winter or in moments of uncertainty. I therefore know that I cannot live up to my own ideals.

I do not know how I will live illness and old age. I only know that it will not be a choice between creativity and despair, but rather both. Both, because I swerve between the two, moments of insight and periods of despair following close on each other. Both also because they are part of the same process, each is only possible with the other, and only has meaning through the other.

I am left with the question of how, blind, I might write a life with these fragments.

(O) I am dumbfounded, by the post and so much in the comments that follow.

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