Saturday, September 9, 2017

Coffee with Hannah

The Vero Cafe, Eugene, Oregon
I got a text from Hannah today.  Funny how much you can tell from a few short words, and the timing of those words, even when they are not spoken.  She seems okay, but maybe a little bit not okay..

I've known Hannah since she was a little girl.  Now in her mid-twenties, she is a creative, strong, smart young woman in the midst of becoming.  Over coffee, we talk about grieving for what was even as we embrace what's becoming.  

Even with tears in her eyes, Hannah is radiant with possibility and resolve. And she reminds me that I am like that too. We linger on the patio at the Vero cafe over a second coffee, savoring the chill air.  And then it's time for each of us to return to the everyday race of getting things done and figuring out how to pay.

But we are changed by the moment when each of us was a little dissolved in the other, a little less on our own island.    She will back next weekend.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

View from Mt. Bailey,
Outside Eugene, Oregon
Today I realized it's been almost a year since my last post.  In those months, I've had a serious illness, lost my mom, and left my job.  It's a lot to absorb, and it seems like there have not been very many Pure Moments during the process.

But I know there have been.  There have been moments when I felt well, and connected to my friends and family, moments when music or the sound of wind in trees transported me out of my head and into the present.

As I write this, I remember that early this morning, about 3am, I woke to the sound of rain on the metal roof outside my bedroom.  After many months of hot, dry weather here in Oregon's Willamette Valley, this is important.  On hearing the sound, I feel excitement and relief.  I dress and walk down the stairs, outside, to let the rain fall on my face.  

For weeks, the air here has been thick with smoke from wildfires burning all over the state.  Ash has fallen from the sky constantly, coating everything with tiny white specks.  Now the air is washed clean.  As I look up into the rain, I feel washed clean too.  

I climb the stairs, climb back into bed and drift off to the sound of rain, with raindrops still on my face.

Friday, December 2, 2016


 My mother passed away two weeks ago.  Her name was Barbara.  Born in 1928, she survived the Great Depression and the Great War.

Barbara loved literature and music and the mountains.  She played classical piano.  When we moved to a new neighborhood in the spring of 1967, I remember finding my way home from school by listening for the sounds of Claire de Lune from her piano.

A little over a year ago, Barbara was diagnosed with a terminal illness.  She fought with such courage, it changed my life to be witness to it.  Last month, my sisters and I, and her very devoted friends, were with her when she passed.

My Mom taught me to love the woods, and she opened the world of books to me.  She taught me that the spiritual path is a normal part of living.  She and my Dad, and all of their generation taught me that when life knocks you down, you get back up.

After the graveside service two weeks ago, I was driving home. It was dark and quiet, and there was finally time for me to feel the loss.  As I drove down I-5, I was feeling sad, and then I started thinking about things I had done and said to my Mom that I regretted.  I decided to turn on the radio, to distract myself.  I was driving through the the dark, steering with one hand and tuning the radio with another,  but there was nothing but static on the radio, so I turned it off.

And suddenly it felt like someone was sitting in the car next to me.  Exactly like someone was sitting there, only I couldn't see anyone.  It felt like Mom was there.  It felt like her, like her presence, only also more.  There was a kind of hush and we just sat together for a bit.  I got to thinking again about the regrets I have about my relationship with her.  Impressions started to come into my mind, not like words, more like fully formed ideas, but they were formed the way Mom would have said them.

She "said" that there was more for the two of us to do, but that was okay because we would see each other again and we would finish.  She said "you are a good man."  She seemed calm and focused.  Then she said goodbye and the presence faded out, exactly like if you were turning the dimmer switch on a light.

Before this encounter, my grief for my mother felt like a hook that held me in a terrible grasp.  After, I felt the loss but also, peace.  I drove the rest of the way home reminded that the next world is much more available to us than we allow ourselves to think.  And that those who are in the next world are more alive than we are.

My relationship with my Mom, as Mother and Son, is complete.  My life continues; work, health problems, money worries, and walks by the river, sunsets and friends and family who hug me.  My Mother continues too, in a place not so far away, where who she was here is only a part of who she is forever.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Road Trip

This day has been so sweet, nothing to do but read, write, draw and nap in the cozy silence of my little studio.

Finally, about 3, I decide to get out of the house for a bit, maybe walk by the river.  By the time I get to the park, it is pouring down rain in the best Oregon tradition.  The river is as gray as slate, hurrying  along, the rapids of summer long gone, now it is a flowing monolith, punctuated only by raindrop impacts and the familiar "cat's claw" pattern made by incoming breezes.

The rain is driving, and I'm not wearing my rain pants. Within minutes, my jeans are getting soaked. I decide to retreat to the car. But now there is nothing to do. I have an appointment at four, but it's only 3:30. I have not brought my book.  What to do? My mind is a little frantic, confronted with empty, unplanned time.

 Of course. I breathe, and note the in breath. Then another, and another. Rain falls on the roof of the car, making hard sounds that contrast with the soft light outside.  Thoughts fall away, and there is only my breath and the rain.

30 minutes later, I am on my way to the appointment, refreshed and at peace.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Today for the first time in six months I feel strong enough to go for a walk in the woods.  The recurring health problem I struggle with has left me with a gray succession of days, spent in exhausting pain.

Today though, there is a respite. So.  The wooded trail.  It is as I left it, muddy and silent, and golden with fall.  The leaves on one Alder tree are so bright that  for a moment I think the sun has broken through the tall trees on this rainy day.

As I climb the hill past the glowing trees, all the loss of the last year falls away; illness, the loss of my Mom, my job.  Here, the concerns of the future cannot press do not press in me as much either; money, insurance, my health and What To Do Now, all fall away with every step I go deeper into the woods.  Now there is only the trail, and the trees.

A silent mist marches through the steep forest, softening the edges of my vision.  Ahead, something brown crosses the path, visible for a fleeting moment, and is gone.  A deer, probably, though there are also cougar and bear here.

At the pass, I pause to take a picture of a tiny white and gray mushroom pushing up from under some blackberry leaves.  In a depression in the cap is a tiny puddle of rain water. Two dark pine needles float there, in the shadow of the dark green blackberry leaves.

On the way down the hill, the cares of my life re-assemble themselves.  But they come back in a little lighter than they were before the walk.