Yesterday I was tasked with looking through decades of photographs belonging to a great friend who died a few months ago.  Her home of many dozen years was being cleared out. What struck me was the overwhelming reality of the journey our bodies take as we are living each of our days, months and years. Our body changes while I believe our spirit does not rearrange itself quite in the same way.  Looking through the pictures of this one woman, I saw her as a cute baby, a lovely teenager, a young woman with children, a young woman gaunt and beautiful, changed through one of the sadder moments of her life, the middle-aged woman, still full of life, and the older woman still full of life but now with a body surrounded by weight,  her soul still shining through.  These days I spend some time recognizing my own metamorphosis...feeling the same as my thirty-year-old self, and wondering who that person is I am looking at in the mirror.

So Reading Ursula K. LeGuin Wave of the Mind,  I felt keenly that she was able to say the words that exactly fit. At this time, her death recent, It seemed to me it would be a good way of keeping her alive and those still here, ever mindful.

"My mother died at eighty-three, of cancer, in pain, her spleen enlarged so that her body was misshapen. Is that the person I see when I think of her? Sometimes. I wish it were not. It is a true image, yet it blurs, it clouds, a truer image. It is one memory among fifty years of memories of my mother. It is the last in time. Beneath it, behind it is a deeper, complex, ever-changing image, made from imagination, hearsay, photographs, memories. I see a little red-haired child in the mountains of Colorado, a sad-faced, delicate college girl, a kind, smiling young mother, a brilliantly intellectual woman, a peerless flirt, a serious artist, a splendid cook—I see her rocking, weeding, writing, laughing — I see the turquoise bracelets on her delicate, freckled arm — I see, for a moment, all that at once, I glimpse what no mirror can reflect, the spirit flashing out across the years, beautiful.

That must be what the great artists see and paint. That must be why the tired, aged faces in Rembrandt’s portraits give us such delight: they show us beauty not skin-deep but life-deep."


portrait by Frederico Piatti

portrait by Frederico Piatti


by May Sarton

Alone one is never lonely: the spirit
       adventures, waking
In a quiet garden, in a cool house, abiding single there;
The spirit adventures in sleep, the sweet thirst-slaking
When only the moon’s reflection touches the wild hair.
There is no place more intimate than the spirit alone:
It finds a lovely certainty in the evening and the morning.
It is only where two have come together bone against bone
That those alonenesses take place, when, without warning
The sky opens over their heads to an infinite hole in space;
It is only turning at night to a lover that one learns
He is set apart like a star forever and that sleeping face
(For whom the heart has cried, for whom the frail hand burns)
Is swung out in the night alone, so luminous and still,
The waking spirit attends, the loving spirit gazes
Without communion, without touch, and comes to know at last
Out of a silence only and never when the body blazes
That love is present, that always burns alone, however steadfast.



"A lot of people think or believe or know they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself." e e cummngs



You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly — that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
 — Anne Lamott



          Unlike the instruction to stay in the moment, I furtively look over the landscape of my life, knowing with certainty that while this is the moment I am in, there were so many moments that brought me here.

          So it happened that on a particularly cold and snowy day, I settled into the now worn leather chair which itself is years old, and began to read a thicket of letters, stored away for many years, from a person who had once been my best friend. What became of her?  Of our friendship?  For the first time in many years, I gave over my day, and all of the evening to the reading of them, and thinking about her. She had up till now, slipped my mind. I was transported to another time. Cleared from the debris of years, I found myself in the back-then. In the once-upon- a -time.

Best Friend cover.jpg


This quote seems even more important today than ever.

"In a world whose absurdity appears to be so impenetrable, we simply must reach a greater degree of understanding among men, a greater sincerity. We must achieve this or perish. To do so, certain conditions must be fulfilled: men must be frank (falsehood confuses things), free (communication is impossible with slaves). Finally, they must feel a certain justice around them." Albert Camus


The days have been cold and wet and has been for some time.  One gets these middle-of-the-night thoughts...the one last night was, if not surprising or particularly new,  enlightening to me.  I suppose transcribing Betty and my letters for the new book I am putting together has placed me back in time. A  recognition about how the closest and most important people in our lives move away. Moments that you felt somehow eternal, are transient. They cannot last. People are transient.  Losing touch with Betty for twenty-nine years struck that chord. We could not have been closer, and yet that friendship inhabited a particular time in life, and then it ended.  I can think of so many other people.  She was an unknown by then. It makes it clearer to me what the Buddhists' say about loss, being in the now, and letting go.  We do let go, but sometimes it takes time.  More to the point seems to be that one can't assume that we will be tied together by virtue of a time spent together forever. There is no forever on this plane.  Those ties will loosen and float away.  Most often I accept that, as others do.  We go on with our lives, remembering sometimes vaguely of those ties which for a period of time bound us to each other.  That became clearer to me in the darkness of last night.  We are no more, except maybe an occasional surfacing memory that will bring that time back to them or to me, for a moment.  That particular kind of loss doesn't always feel real, until it does, and when it does, I understand completely the journey we travel on.  The connections we have made and then have let go of.  The memory of certain times from a backward look can be visceral and immediate, but no longer have the ability to stay or ever be again.  There is sadness in this recognition, but the truth of loss of each moment of our lives that ended when that moment ended is what it is. Life IS immediate. What occupies me now will be over as it is being lived. We will step from each of our now moments to the next now moment. The parade of time really does move forward.  You can stand in one place and you will still be moving.  Now becomes then just like that. now a memory. It no longer exists. It is a "was", a has- been.  It will never happen again...If I counted  and contemplated the seconds of my life, I would be struck deeply by the meaning of time, the filling of time. The movement of time. The inevitable change.  We are not static. That's the realization which while not very clever, became very real and an amazing understanding that went towards acceptance.

From a work in progress: Best Friends

The interesting thing is that now I have a different view. When I was young I was impatient for my future to begin, and now I am stuck in the life that already was.  I have traveled through many years, seen every season many, many times. Sitting here on my tiny deck, a witness to so many decades swirling around my mind, I feel the full weight of those years. I moved through some of them with eyes half closed—at other times fully engaged in the demand that I take part in finding my particular place and recognizing all the reasons for needing to be here, discovering with some relief, that after all, none of this will matter in one hundred years.


About the act of writing

"In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions — with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating — but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space"  Joan Didion


From David Whyte;s book: Collision:
HEARTBREAK is unpreventable; the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control...Heartbreak begins the moment we are asked to let go but cannot, in other words, it colors and inhabits and magnifies each and every day; heartbreak is not a visitation, but a path that human beings follow through even the most average life. Heartbreak is an indication of our sincerity: in a love relationship, in a life's work, in trying to learn a musical instrument, in the attempt to shape a better more generous self. Heartbreak is the beautifully helpless side of love and affection and is [an] essence and emblem of care... Heartbreak has its own way of inhabiting time and its own beautiful and trying patience in coming and going.



I would simply like to reclaim an old and, alas, quite unfashionable private formula: Moderate enjoyment is double enjoyment. And: Do not overlook the little joys!In certain circles [moderation] requires courage to miss a première. In wider circles it takes courage not to have read a new publication several weeks after its appearance. In the widest circles of all, one is an object of ridicule if one has not read the daily paper. But I know people who feel no regret at exercising this courage.Let not the man* who subscribes to a weekly theater series feel that he is losing something if he makes use of it only every other week. I guarantee: he will gain.

Let anyone who is accustomed to looking at a great many pictures in an exhibition try just once, if he is still capable of it, spending an hour or more in front of a single masterpiece and content himself with that for the day. He will be the gainer by it.

Let the omnivorous reader try the same sort of thing. Sometimes he will be annoyed at not being able to join in conversation about some publication; occasionally he will cause smiles. But soon he will know better and do the smiling himself. And let any man who cannot bring himself to use any other kind of restraint try to make a habit of going to bed at ten o’clock at least once a week. He will be amazed at how richly this small sacrifice of time and pleasure will be rewarded.

Herman Hesse

Herman Hesse


In Simone deBeauvoir's autobiography, ALL SAID AND DONE, 1972, she talks about something that I have often contemplated and indeed experienced.  Her words capture this experience far better than I can:

"Every morning, even before I open my eyes, I know I am in my bedroom and my bed. But if I go to sleep after lunch in the room where I work, sometimes I wake up with a feeling of childish amazement — why am I myself? What astonishes me, just as it astonishes a child when he becomes aware of his own identity, is the fact of finding myself here, and at this moment, deep in this life and not in any other. What stroke of chance has brought this about?

The penetration of that particular ovum by that particular spermatozoon, with its implications of the meeting of my parents and before that of their birth and the births of all their forebears, had not one chance in hundreds of millions of coming about. And it was chance, a chance quite unpredictable in the present state of science, that caused me to be born a woman. From that point on, it seems to me that a thousand different futures might have stemmed from every single movement of my past: I might have fallen ill and broken off my studies; I might not have met Sartre; anything at all might have happened.

Tossed into the world, I have been subjected to its laws and its contingencies, ruled by wills other than my own, by circumstance and by history: it is therefore reasonable for me to feel that I am myself contingent. What staggers me is that at the same time I am not contingent. If I had not been born no question would have arisen: I have to take the fact that I do exist as my starting point. To be sure, the future of the woman I have been may turn me into someone other than myself. But in that case it would be this other woman who would be asking herself who she was. For the person who says “Here am I” there is no other coexisting possibility. Yet this necessary coincidence of the subject and his history is not enough to do away with my perplexity. My life: it is both intimately known and remote; it defines me and yet I stand outside it."



"Nevertheless, this meaning does not cover all that is signified by communication. For example, consider a dialogue. In such a dialogue, when one person says something, the other person does not in general respond with exactly the same meaning as that seen by the first person. Rather, the meanings are only similar and not identical. Thus, when the second person replies, the first person sees a difference between what he meant to say and what the other person understood. On considering this difference, he may then be able to see something new, which is relevant both to his own views and to those of the other person. And so it can go back and forth, with the continual emergence of a new content that is common to both participants. Thus, in a dialogue, each person does not attempt to make common certain ideas or items of information that are already known to him. Rather, it may be said that the two people are making something in common, i.e., creating something new together.

But of course such communication can lead to the creation of something new only if people are able freely to listen to each other, without prejudice, and without trying to influence each other. Each has to be interested primarily in truth and coherence so that he is ready to drop his old ideas and intentions and be ready to go on to something different when this is called for." David Bohm

I-Thou--and--Self. Versus the Authentic Self...the Differences

Martin Buber

Buber’s philosophy of dialogue views the human existence in two fundamentally different kinds of relations: I-It relations and I-Thou relations. An I-It relation is the normal everyday relation of a human being toward his or her surroundings. A person can also view another person as an It, and often does so by viewing others from a distance. In the I-Thou relation the individual enters into the relationship with another human with his or her entire being. This relationship becomes an intimate meeting, a real dialogue between both partners. Buber saw this as a reflection of the encounter between the human being and God. The I-Thou relationship allows for dialogue between the human being and God.



Kahlill Gibran:

My friend, I am not what I seem. Seeming is but a garment I wear — a care-woven garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee from my negligence. The “I” in me, my friend, dwells in the house of silence, and therein it shall remain for ever more, unperceived, unapproachable.

The “friend” Gibran addresses is the idealized self, the self we present to the world, the aspirational self of who we would like to be rather than who we are — a self that invariably obscures our incompleteness and imperfection, which are the wellspring of our richest humanity. Gibran writes:

My friend, thou art good and cautious and wise; nay, thou art perfect — and I, too, speak with thee wisely and cautiously. And yet I am mad. But I mask my madness. I would be mad alone. My friend, thou art not my friend, but how shall I make thee understand? My path is not thy path, yet together we walk, hand in hand.


When I cannot resolve what is happening, or what has happened in the past, when I can't say clearly to anyone what I am feeling, then it is only in writing that I find my voice. That is why I write. To extract what I otherwise find hard to comprehend at once.  I can dig out of the recesses of my consciousness, that which I already know and explore it with a depth that is unavailable otherwise. Writing whether memoir or fiction is a long slow journey.  We are explorers of the human condition at large and of our own personal self. Our attempt-- my attempt, is to find what makes us most human.

I have used "self" as a way of making what I  write something that hopefully is a universal truth. I hope I have written characters  with compassion, even when they are flawed, even those I perceive as having done me harm. It is the personal experiences we write about which help us discover a small truth about ourselves and a bigger truth about our world. When I write in the first person, I think I may be revealed. Or that someone will recognize themselves.  and when i manage to write without fear of having to be safe I have the chance of finding that amazing moment, the thing that turns on every light in the house Even while the sun is still shining.


Oliver Sacks on Death, Destiny, and the Redemptive Radiance of a Life Fully Lived

From Brainpickings...

“To lament that we shall not be alive a hundred years hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago,” Montaigne observed in his sixteenth-century meditation on death and the art of living“The greatest dignity to be found in death is the dignity of the life that preceded it,” the late surgeon and bio ethicist, Sherwin Nuland wrote half a millennium later in his foundational treatise on mortality.

Oliver Sacks (July 9, 1933–August 30, 2015


"I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death."


 "In the end, all forgiveness is self-forgiveness. It shakes loose the calcification that accumulates around our hearts. Then love can flow more freely.
It's a radical form of self-acceptance that allows us to release the holding on that has caused us unbelievable pain. It’s about realizing that as long as you hold onto the hot coal of your anger, resentment, and sense of having been wronged, you are only hurting yourself. Unless you release that burden, you will carry it with you for the rest of your life. You will never be free." "Forgiveness is for the forgiver
" (sent to me by Colleen Gray   Author unknown


"I had believed that I was leaving nothing out of account, like a rigorous analyst; I had believed that I knew the state of my own heart. But our intelligence, however lucid, cannot perceive the elements that compose it and remain unsuspected so long as, from the volatile state in which they generally exist, a phenomenon capable of isolating them has not subjected them to the first stages of solidification. I had been mistaken in thinking that I could see clearly into my own heart. But this knowledge, which the shrewdest perceptions of the mind would not have given me, had now been brought to me, hard, glittering, strange, like a crystallised salt, by the abrupt reaction of pain."  Marcel Proust