Prayersong: Life and Death

Last week I would have told you that, 4ish weeks from our planned departure, my big concern at the moment was that my best friend was coming to be our first weekend guest. I was sure that I needed to get the cockpit cushions sewn so that I could clear the materials out of the v-berth to make a private place for Aimee to sleep. Then, last week, three of my closest friends lost a father, a mother, and a mentor to death, and my sister-in law went into labor with her son, who has trisomy 13, a rare, serious, random chromosomal syndrome; the best guess of his doctors was that if Judah were born alive, he would live only a couple of days.

James got on a plane to go meet our nephew Judah and to say goodye to him, and I stayed here to hold down the boat and share this final weekend Aimee. Our visit was sweet. We walked across the Golden Gate bridge and back. I was torn between euphoria and nausea as I watched the boats passing out into the open ocean. We ran together on the Bay Trail. We shared a meal in my cockpit, just us, and a meal out with friends, and we drove down to Watsonville for an afternoon party at our friend Nadine's beautiful farm. Nadine's heart was set upon sending me home with an entire bucket of dahlias from her exquisite garden, but I managed to convince her that this was simply too much for a 40' boat. I left with a half gallon jar of water holding my namesake blossoms. I carried the bouquet in my lap or hands on the drive from Watsonville to the San Francisco airport, where Aimee and I parted, she for her flight home and I for the BART train. I carried the big jar carefully on the BART train from SFO to West Oakland, where all trains were stopping for track work, onto the shuttle busses running from West Oakland station to the 19th Street station, back on BART from 19th St to North Berkeley, and in the Lyft I took home from North Berkeley. There is now, therefore, the first ever bouquet of flowers on Rejoice.

I woke this morning in my quiet boat, alone, and I smiled at the flowers. I burned some palo santo and I sat in front of the little prayer flags and sang to the cosmos, as I do each morning. I sang thanks for my life, and I sang love for my family, support for the transitioning spirits of those newly freed of the flesh, support for my grieving friends, and peace and ease for my sweet nephew Judah and all who are supporting him in the time he has with us.

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My rational mind thinks that the universe just is, and that human brains like to see patterns and meaning because we are fancy hunter-gatherering monkeys. My imagination and my heart see this profound nexus of events and believes that the universe is giving me a lesson in perspective, gratitude, impermanence. Cockpit cushions?! YOU ARE ALIVE again today with people you love. Cherish this day and all that it offers.

I have learned that it is not necessary to reconcile the different perspectives my being holds; in teaching meditation, I refer to this as "the chorus of the self". The ego, the I-maker, as the yogis might say, is that aspect of human consciousness which takes all the varied, often conflicting drives within us and presents a unified and coherent identity experience from them. But the deeper we go into practice, the easier it is to see that we are not coherent; we are, as dear Walt says, vast, and we contain mulititudes. As we go deeper into practice, we find more compassion for the complexity of our nature and less need to reconcile the varied drives within us.

Now, I just try to see it all and ask these parts of me to hold one another in compassion. The rational mind thinks that sure, the imagination/heart/mystical story isn't true. The rational mind believes that events are simply happening, and that being able to experience challenges and hardships both in their darkness and in the light and benefit that they bring is a skill I have cultivated. The rational mind knows that the mystical part of me has a different perspective, and it tries not to judge that, tries to just let it be since it seems harmless and makes me happy. The mystical part of me is certain that existence cannot be understood, that every society is sure it knows what being is and that this just keeps changing with time and in a hundred years the current consensus reality will appear laughably limited. The mystical part of me is sure of what the heart feels and trusts it. They mystical part of me holds the limited rational mind in compassion, and does not try to convince it. And it's all just in there, singing itself, the chorus of my consciousness.

This morning after I sang my prayersong, I went for a run on the trail along the shore. It was the rare August morning with no fog and light wind. I was hot, and at one point stopped to rest, laid down at the seaside in the gull shit and little stones and broken bits of mussel shell left by feeding birds and walking feet, and I looked down at the waters of the high tide lapping against the stairs. There are stairs like this all around Marina Bay in Richmond; I surmise that they are intended to allow people to access the water safely, since people are going to find a way to get to the water whether it is safe or not. Today I looked at the water lapping at the stairs, and I thought: that. That is my life right now. The perfect symbol: a staircase that leads to the sea.

metaphor for my life right now.

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Yesterday's little Zen Page A Day calendar, which we treasure and treat as a little oracle in our family, was also not very subtle: IMG_3480

I love you. I thank you for reading. I welcome your voice in the discussion if you wish to speak.