Gratitude They Suggest

Ahh, I believe gratitude is the best way to get over any navel gazing or depression. But first you have to want to get over it. First you have to agree to turn your face from the endless void to look out at the world around. It takes energy. It takes a first step. It takes getting up off the ground and speaking. Well, metaphorically.

I am grateful to be able to take a breath in, and to let it out again. That is, after all, the most basic and most privileged state of life. Breathe in. Breathe out. I am grateful I still can think in this moment, that my brain processes are not compromised. Yes, I can think. I can translate thoughts from my brain into my fingers on the keyboard. Some kind of miracle. I am grateful for my eyes, which watch these words appear, letter by letter, by some rationally unknown process onto the screen in front of me. I lift my eyes and see the stunning shades of green and purple Jacaranda blossoms in rich, contrasting clumps. My smell is not really present at the moment. But I am grateful I have been able to smell the roses, not to mention the salt sea air, fresh coffee in the morning, the actual fragrance of fresh dew on grass. 

I am grateful to be able to touch these keys and feel what it is like to move fingers to different keys and communicate. I am grateful to be able to feel the dratted mosquito bite, the itch on the top of my hand, the texture of my jeans. I am very grateful to hear the varied bird song outside, high-pitched tweets, insistent squawking, the presence of life, free in the trees and air about. I am grateful to be able to speak, not just in written word but to answer a phone call and to talk animatedly with my friend, to talk for extended minutes or even hours about memories, hopes, dreams, to talk to a gas company employee and explain a problem. I am grateful to taste the sweetness of an orange, the comfort of coffee with almond mile, the spices of curry, the mushrooms and peppers and rice of garlic chicken.

So. Despite all absence of desire to cooperate, I have been moved. Even the most wretched, witnessing the black death of everything he once treasured, can feel a glimmer of hope again in gratitude. Ok then.

The Strongest Leaves of My Tree

What’s it all about, Alfie, Bernice, Leslie? I suddenly think of the song Holly Near sang, They Are Falling All Around Me, on her album Sky Dances. The song was written by Bernice Johnson Reagon, an African American singer/composer/activist/all kinds of things who founded Sweet Honey in the Rock, among her many accomplishments. What a powerful woman. What a legacy of a song for times of mourning.

They are falling all around me
They are falling all around me
They are falling all around me
The strongest leaves of my tree

Every paper brings the news that
Every paper brings the news that
Every paper brings the news that
The teachers of my sound are movin’ on

Death it comes and rests so heavy
Death it comes and rests so heavy
Death comes and rests so heavy
Your face I’ll never see no more

But you’re not really going to leave me
You’re not really going to leave me
You’re not really going to leave me

It is your path I walk
It is your song I sing
It is your load I take on
It is your air that I breathe
It’s the record you set
That makes me go on
It’s your strength that helps me stand

You’re not really
You’re not really going to leave me

And I have tried to sing my song right
I have tried to sing my song right
I will try to sing my song right 
Be sure to let me hear from you

They Are Falling All Around Me by Bernice Johnson ReagonSongTalk Publishing Co.

When Holly’s album, Sky Dances, came out in 1989 I was living in El Cerrito, CA near Berkeley. In line with my latest heartbreak and needing to exercise regularly, I used to walk in a park near my little Elm St. home, listening on my Walkman (or whatever device it was) as I walked. Again and again this song brought me to watery eyes, if not downright tears.

At that time I was thinking of all the young men dying of AIDS, so many artists and creative forces for a generation and the leaves of all of our trees, falling, falling, in bright spring instead of late fall.

I am just 67. My best childhood friends died in 2003 in their 50’s. My dear friend, Les, just died at 60. I try to feel excitement at remembered dreams, adventures such as finishing my tour of the world by tennis tournament, the French Open and Wimbledon still to go. But then I wonder if my own leaf will be falling soon, perhaps even before my mother, or whether I will be one of the long-lived women of my mother’s maternal side, moving on through the world while others go before me.

In these moments I feel simply sadness, confusion and grappling with the irony of my life. I spent much of the middle 40 years of my life in chronic suicide mode, everything seeming sunny and bright on the outside, but dark, purposeless and full of despair inside.

Now that the finish line is in sight, I no longer think of ending my life before its time. I still experience despair, purposeless and confusion about why I have followed such a life path, why I should have chosen such a solitary life, wondering at the appearance of people in the world, only to see them pass on with barely a memory by the new world.

I have asked my friend, Les, to let me hear from her. I do constantly see her face shining brightly with an enormous, compassionate smile and her always-sparkling eyes. But is that what I am supposed to hear? My grandmother promised to send me a message after her own ship sailed on, but I don’t know whether I have heard it or not.

So this day, this Memorial Day Monday of 2014, I simply remember. I remember those I have loved who have gone before. I remember those I love now. I will try to sing my song, but “right” is not a word I can connect with. I will just try to keep singing, the best I know how.


Oh yeah. Faith. Remembering that all is in divine order. Let go and let God. Trusting that the perfect buyer for the house will come at the perfect time. Being willing to relax while the plan is being worked out and surrendering the need to make things happen.

Faith in my Self, in my own higher power, my connection with the power of God, the natural order of the Universe, the balance of day and night, joy and pain, struggling and letting go.

I know that I can lose the 50 lbs. I am committed to losing. I know that the first 25 are within sight, and I can change my habits to bring along the second 25. I know that I am not along on my path.

I know that God is with Mom in her own journey,  and I am willing to be patient as her own path continues as it may, supporting her through faith, love, letting go of fear.

We will all be taken care of. We have no idea how our paths are meant to go. We think we know, but we really can’t anticipate the unknown, so better to live in the present.

And…as always, that is really all we have as we always come back to: the present.  All the clichés  about being in the Now, living in the present, carpe diem, we only have this moment — we hear them so often because they are the fundamental truth of life.

From the biblical wisdom of “This is the day the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” to 21st Century books about being in the Now and staying in the moment, they are constant because the truth is constant.

There are the 24 hours of May 23, 2014. I slept happily through the first 6 hours. Now I want to be fully present through the next 17 until I sleep through the final hour.

This day. This sweet day of life.

Claiming My Truth, Light and Dark

Thursday, May 22, 2014
Ever since childhood I have seemed to be in search of purpose in life, of a meaning behind the veil.

Recently I saw a headline in the New York Times  which caught my fancy: Writing About a Life of Ideas. That article is about famous philosophers and intellectuals. But I realize that the true story of my own life is a story about ideas, perceptions, reaching for something beyond what is easily visible. It is not a choice, just as my sexual orientation is not a choice. It is all just who I am.

Although genetically we don’t have a choice of whether we begin as an acorn or the seed for an apple tree, we do have the choice of how we grow. We can choose to open to whatever light is there to nourish us, honoring the seed of our soul, deciding to survive and thrive. Often I would prefer to have grown as a magnificent rose or a fragrant lily, but as with Popeye, I yam what I yam.

And from early childhood I have been wondering about the world and have been struggling to accept the night and darkness of life along with the sun and light of day.  I made an enormous step of reconciliation with the publication of my book, SunCatcher: Walking Lightly in the Dark. But I finally realize it will be a lifelong process of recognizing the gifts of both the sunshine light of day and the moonshine or utter darkness of the night. So be it!

I began writing in this blog seven years ago, in 2007.  Most years I wrote only one or two posts. It is a huge leap of faith to leave these pieces open to anyone who wishes to read them, because I have not even read them in years and there might be great shame. But this is particularly the uncensored blog.

Befitting the world of ideas and musings, these are endless, wordy comments on the state of the world and my own nature. Reader, beware and…perhaps look for a diamond in the rough!