Life Plucks Us When it is Our Time…

————-

Life plucks us when it is our time.

Like the solo

desert

bloom

amongst cactus trees:

we are called to open towards the heat of life

and then to close

at the perfect moment

of dusk,

into the cool, dark, expanse

of infinity.

There are never two of the same.

One precious imprint,

now traveling with a wild breeze

across rocks and space

into the vast crevices of the heart…

————–

What Remains? Heart. What is Constant? Love.

Rowan has been obsessed with dinosaurs. My brother asked me, “what is it about dinosaurs?” And then it struck me: the attraction is ultimately about facing his own mortality. “Where have the dinosaurs gone? Why did they go back to the Earth? Are they coming back? Why not? When do we go back to the Earth?” The questions slowly unfold over a period of weeks and months. We dance around the topic often. His teachers tell me he has taken to reading a book called The Day the Dinosaurs Died, over and over again. “Are you going back to the Earth one day, Mama? I don’t want you to go…”

We are in the Why realm of parent-child interactions. Question upon question. This week Rowan asked again, “When do we go back to the Earth?” Its a mystery, it’s a surprise, I tell him. This time, he isn’t consoled. He bursts into tears and says “I don’t want to go…I don’t want to turn back into dirt…I want to stay here.” Almost immediately I can feel my own reactions to death surfacing and I see him look at me intently, gauging my response. This is a moment when all beliefs and stories culminate. It is a moment of pause. How do I answer? What do I say? My own fear of death and resistance to the true finality of mortality surfaces. I try to relax. I take a deep breath and hear myself telling him that while his skin and bones may return home to the Earth, our hearts stay connected to everything – and that our hearts become bigger than ourselves and our current bodies. “We become bigger than our body, ” I say. “We won’t be alone. We become connected with everything else…” I suddenly see that ‘returning to the Earth’ is likely evoking a lonely, solemn image. Dinosaur bones, dirt, bugs, garbage? I wonder what he is imagining. I hear myself tell him the Earth isn’t a bad place, either: the realm of seeds and soil and the new life of Spring he’s been observing of late. “Our hearts stay, becoming like the sky. Our bodies are like transformers (insert smile) – one minute we are one thing and the next we can transform..Its like magic,” I hear myself say.

It strikes me that this is a moment of profound explanation I’ve known would come but that I didn’t prepare for. It was a spontaneous answer, and maybe one that will shift next time. “Who else is there?” he asks me when I tell him about becoming something different. I wonder to myself: what will I say of Heaven? And what will I say of Nothingness? What about the raw, painful truth of endings? And what if I am not there with him in his passing? I want to tell him I’ll be with him. I want to reassure him, but I find I can’t. Instead, I simply feel our togetherness, now. Our bond, now. This lifetime, now. And then I remember Death: it is indeed the great transformer, a holy surprise.

He repeats it back to me matter of factly, seeming a bit more satisfied. “But our skin and bones do have to go back to the Earth,” he says, holding his own arms. “Yes. And that is why we need to remember the gift of every day and of our bodies and each other,” I answer.

That very night I am up until midnight facing the specter of complications resulting from a routine procedure my dad recently underwent. The complications almost land him in the Emergency Room. I face squarely all my fears of loss, the resistance to change, the grasping for solidity amidst flux, he reticence to letting go of what has been. It all of a sudden strikes me that what I have said to Rowan is true, for me: What, then, if anything, is constant? Love. What remains? Heart. Love can find its way into any crack. Regardless of outcome, love can be present. And the beauty of it is that I can’t grab a hold of it. I can’t grasp for it. I can only practice feeling it. I can only relax into it.

It’s not that any of this erases my shaky anxiety. What if my dad is the one in one thousand who dies from this procedure? All of this is simply a reminder of what I can find at the bottom of grief and sorrow and confusion and uncertainty. It is what I can live into as the glorious backdrop of life. In a sense, it then doesn’t matter what is next or why. All that matters is the present moment experience of Love: and whether we can bring this to our most challenging moments. Can we bring love into our moments of fear and unrest? Can we bring love into our moments of unsettledness and resistance? Can we bring this even through the raw edges of death’s door?

————–

The next day I stumble upon this quote from Swami Vivekananda, the page open at a friend’s house. The missing words are “He believes that the soul is a circle…………….whose center is situated in the body.”

download

—————-

 

Full Circle

Life’s course carries us unabashedly forward into aging.  As Rumi reminds me we’ve been through a million cycles of birth and rebirth, a million circles of beginning and return – even in one lifetime.  I feel my place in life’s great circle this weekend as I witness my son next to my grandmother:  Rowan, who is just shy of two, next to LaRue, just five years from being alive for a full century.  Lao Tzu comes to mind as he says “Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.”

My mother and I dance in the middle, she caring for my grandmother and I for my son.  We live a similar existence as full-time caregivers – helping with toilet, bath, food and sleep.  Both of us up several times a night, we are firekeepers in the middle – bearing witness to the great signposts of life:  Beginning and End – and the realization that we often go on from this world much the same way we came in.

My mother tells me it’s easier to stay grounded in the present moment now that she is caregiving so intensely.  I sigh in agreement.  We muse about the calling to be intensely focused, on point, on guard – preventing a fall and ensuring comfort… “Yes, its easier to be present so long as you are in the flow of tasks and not resisting what’s arising,” we say.  Stay in the flow, stay present.  Loose the flow and crash.

Lao Tzu comes to mind again.  Stay in the flow of life, breathing deeply, not resisting, moving in the world like a graceful dancer carrying water with the task of not spilling;  Ever present, diving into the day’s tasks with contentment rather than begrudgingly – receiving what arises like a gift of Nature.  “Embracing Tao, you become embraced,” he says.  Embrace what is given and you are embraced by life.  Resist what is given and your life becomes like the dream I had the other night:  riding uphill on a bicycle in snow and ice on a busy highway full of cars (yes, this was really my dream).  Instead:

Supple, breathing gently, you become reborn.
Clearing your vision, you become clear.
Nurturing your beloved, you become impartial.
Opening your heart, you become accepted.
Accepting the World, you embrace Tao.
Bearing and nurturing,
Creating but not owning,
Giving without demanding,
Controlling without authority,
This is love.

-Lao Tzu