Tag Archives: friendship

Stupid, Useless, Guilty! A Tribute.

My friend died.  I hadn’t seen her in awhile as we travel in different directions most of the time. She had spent much of the last years caring for her sick mother and sister a few hours away in Birmingham.

I took a too rare trip to my yoga home a few months ago and she was there.

“It’s been too long, how are you?”

“I just found out I have stage four cancer! Can you believe it?” She waved her hand over herself. “Me!”

She didn’t whisper as people with horrific news often do. She shouted it out as if to dispel it by force. We are all friends there after all.

She was astonished by the possibility of a clean life fostering that disease. She is a calm and capable and happy woman. She teaches restorative yoga and heals students with singing bowls. She is a painter, an artist who lives an artful life. Who lived an artful life.

She had digestive issues and found there was cancer there that had metastasized. She felt so fine I think she believed she would denounce that cancer and send it running. I believed that.

She suffered through chemotherapy, lost her hair, kept going to the studio and kept teaching her own classes. Her hair grew back. She had another art show.  She had departed from her signature work to something more formed, brighter and simpler. She offered a spread of the same favorite foods she always served. Other than the show being in her yoga studio rather than the usual gallery, all seemed status quo. She was lively, resplendent.  I thought she was mending.

A month or so went by that we didn’t cross paths again.

I got the news by a group mailing. At first it seemed untrue. Surely I would have known a different way. She and I had shared yoga time and painting time and healing time together. My bookmarks are all the birthday cards she made me over the years.

She had been on my mind daily as it’s the Jewish holidays and she is an observant Jew, one of my few Jewish friends who feel what I feel right now. This is a heavy holiday as it heralds a week of reflection and forgiveness. I can’t say why I felt it portend to something heavy with her but I did. She died on the Jewish New Year.

I chanted all I could remember of Yizkor, the Mourner’s Kaddish for the dead. Yizkor means remember. I lit a candle beside a wool basket she had made me filled with her signature painted sculptures.

I called a friend who was her student to tell him. He already knew.

I said, I don’t know what to do. I feel stupid and useless and guilty.

Chris, always a wise guy said, hey that’s a great hook for your business card.  

I was grateful for the laugh.

And the perspective.

I have the flu. I thought I was past it but a night of grief and memories left my lungs with lead weights and a brain sodden and spongy. I will blame my self deprecation on that.

I am not stupid or useless. And maybe I’m guilty of not living a life as full of potential as she did and as she saw in me. And maybe I was guilty of believing she would live and not sending her flowers or cards as I did my last friend that died in a similar way. I had a heads up with that friend that she was not for this world. I had heard Kaaren was challenged again but I knew she was still teaching and wrongly assumed she would go on.

It’s still hot in Nashville. There’s a dry breeze in the slowly dying trees that tells us things have changed despite the temperature.

I slowly walk my dogs on fully stretched leashes. The puppy is pulling me forward. The elderly dog holding me back. This feels like limbo and I note the irony of my observation.

So much more time is behind than before me. To move directionless is wasted time. It is a prison.

What could be crueler than to be a being conscious of your own inevitable demise? We are all on death row. We know the history of death. But all of nature screams keep moving and to scorn that is to scorn life itself.

When loved ones pass they leave us the gift of gratitude for each free breath. Yizkor also upholds that the soul gains additional merit if the memory of its, of her, good deeds spur loved ones to improve their ways.

Kaaren Hirschowitz Engel, you continue to inspire me as you always did. Though life ends, the legacy of you who nourished everyone you touched lives on with us.

May you rest in peace.

 

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Catharsis In Ashes~We Are Stardust

 “Our abandonment is over

We will think that way no more

We belong here, we belong here

We are blazing at the core”

                                                                ~Kenneth Robinson

Autumnal equinox turned the southern corner; spilled light through my front windows in a way not like yesterday. We are anointed by voluminous blue radiance come to illuminate an internal life of winter.

 

A home that holds light is good fortune in a season of change as change is a leap into darkness.

 

Days before the definitive shift a friend’s poem grew roots in my head:

 

Our abandonment is over

We will think that way no more

We belong here, we belong here

We are blazing at the core

 

He had set it to music and asked me to dance.

 

And a mirage moved through the hot dust of the Nevada desert at Burning Man as I remembered a photo of my son.  It became the backdrop for the song. I couldn’t say why except for the timing of events.

 

Jack at Burning Man

Jack at Burning Man

 

Catharsis, revolution, turning of tides, defying the status quo, beginnings and endings, grief and redemption can’t be ignored. Blame the super moon; the radical shift of planets and tides. Blame big events and small incidents. Blame a storm of happenstance for the hand up out of the muck. Wake up. Wake up. There are more procrastinations than tomorrows can hold. It’s time to move on. Things happening in familiar circles and those circumnavigating the globe are boiling. Can you feel it?

 

In this moment of upheaval and assimilation I, ruled by Virgo who is both my sun and rising sign and governor of the intestines, thrive as separating wheat from the chaff is my forte.

 

The beginning of a new year marked by the Hebrew calendar is a good occasion to scrutinize the tribes that declare us their own~ culture~ nation~ family~ friends~ community: We take stock of our people and ourselves. Our people because they’re a reflection but also the company we keep. And they could be holding us down as comfort often trumps and turns in to conviction whose binding eventually reveals all. The company blows apart.

 

 What if we’ve come from stardust as conjecture has it?

We would be like stars: They come together until the energy that binds at the core

Is so bound it cannot move.

Claustrophobic and toxic with stagnation,

We blow apart from the others like supernovas.

 

Scientists found that neurons that do not make contact with other neurons in the human body shrivel and die.

Philosophers liken that to a human need for contact but what of too much contact:

Does closeness also foster destructive tendencies?

When toxicity breeds from stagnation and stagnation comes in many forms, anger involutes to depression or to volatility for one.

 

Oh it’s easy to come together from disparity. To rally against a foe is the easy work.

How to come together and stay together in closeness?

 

We struggle toward unconditional love and fail and try again.

Relationship is a puzzle that frustrates all but whose heart is frozen.

 

Get to the bottom of the frozen heart and find abandonment. That is my over reach for today. When and how were you abandoned in big but mostly small ways; ways that excused you from humanity’s mores?

 

Someone did not want you, could not hold you as you were, could not hear you, could not suffer the burden of being loving or even responsible in a selfless way. You don’t remember every detail or you do but your actions say there is memory. We are wired to remember the cautionary tales. How ironic that this means of survival stands in the way of our evolution.

 

We are guilty of tiny mistakes natural to new beings navigating unknown waters. Little piles of pebbles become the boulder blocking our door.

 

What of yoga and/or faith can help us here?

In the way memory is coaxed to the surface,

In the way relationships with others who resonate with positive vibrations raise us,

In the way unconditional connection to Mother Nature softens us,

In the disconnected moments that we connect because we learn thoughtfulness,

In the way we are taught that becoming our best means excavating our worst.

 

 I have woven a parachute out of everything broken. ~ William Stafford

 

The Jewish holiday that marks the beginning of the year is called the Day of Atonement.

It is excavation day that follows a week of reflection;

 

To say pardon me,

If I was ignorant,

If I was selfish,

If I was greedy,

If I was insecure,

If I harmed you or myself or our maker in any way

 

And then to hear by virtue of all sins forgiven;

I am worthy

I belong here

I am not abandoned because I have embraced myself

And the magnificence of the universe within me is surprisingly magnified by contact with others doing the same work.

 

In my favorite outfit, sweatshirt and bare feet, the cool breeze on naked legs and hot sun in my hair, I welcome the change which comes whether I choose it or not. We are walking through our own fire.

 

Happy New Year.

May my fire light your way

And yours light mine.

(In the year 5775)

 

Sanchi, golden flower,

your aura sanctifies.

Your love, and your will

are stronger than the tides.

 

A morning star awaits us

as we awake from troubled dreams.

The fool stumbles, the heart redeems.

Ecstasy has opened me, though I still break my vow.

I may still fall prey to fear, but it’s clear to me now—

 

Our abandonment is over.

We will think that way no more.

We belong here, we belong here.

We are blazing at the core

 

Of Mystical Reality,

Highest Vibration,

Crystalline Perception,

Total Liberation,

Superbliss Buddha,

Self Realization,

Elemental Know-How,

Miraculous Transformation.

 

Gate Gate Paragate Parasam Gate Bodhi Svaha

 

Gate Gate Paragate Parasam Gate

 

Our abandonment is over.

We will think that way no more.

We belong here, we belong here.

We are blazing at the core.

                                                         ~Kenneth Robinson

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