Tuesday, May 19, 2009


...and I lift my glass to the Awful Truth
which you can't reveal to the Ears of Youth
except to say it isn't worth a dime
And the whole damn place goes crazy twice
and it's once for the devil and once for Christ
but the Boss don't like these dizzy heights
we're busted in the blinding lights,
busted in the blinding lights

---Leonard Cohen

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

---The Guest House
Jelaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

I woke this morning from a strong dream. I took my coffee out to the back of this cabin. There was a waning 2/3 moon above the old Joshua tree. Doves and sparrows swarmed the bird feeder. I opened my notebook to write the dream.
I heard my son yell. "Coyote!" The young black cat was hunting lizards. Coyotes hunt young cats. I looked up. Coyote ambled from east to west about twenty feet from me. The beautiful arrowhead face. The calm gaze. The deliberate settling into the shade of a blossoming creosote.
I began writing the dream. "I am in a dark interior. I know the place. It is the old city, an old life and an old love..."
Twenty minutes later, I wrote the last line: Oh," she says, "I was with him two years ago. That's over."
I look up. The coyote is gone.

Tonight, the uneaten black cat is curled up on a red cushion. I am back from a long sundown walk. Nighthawks had hunted in the soft air. My friend called as I walked. She told me of speaking river to a committee of drought. I headed west as she told me the story, my eyes on the ground to avoid the sun’s blood glare. Something shone in the sand. I stopped. It was a perfect owl feather.
I crouched and picked it up. "I just found an owl feather," I said. "You are Minerva."
She laughed.
“It’s yours,” I said.
The signal began to break up. We said goodbye. The nighthawks arced around me. Nighthawks. The merciless surgeons of twilight.

I cut away. Three bags of what once seemed indispensable go to the Joshua Tree Hospice second-hand store. I throw away pages of thirty-year old writing---warnings about our cruelties to each other and the earth that have turned out to be oracular; the epiphanies and sorrows of a woman waking to the reality that she had regarded herself as “less than” for most of her life; calls to awakening, to knowledge, to action. I tear each page in half. This is a ritual annihilation.
There will always be more words. As long as I draw breath. The words come through. I release them. Loss is the essence of a sending.

I go forward. North. This desert has been demanding and generous. There have been no work and few friends. There have been glare and molten heat. There has been nowhere to run from loneliness, inexorable aging and the imperatives of the only true teacher---the body. There have been Deborah’s open gaze; the good silence of the Joshua Buddha; my youngest son’s intermittent presence, and constant wit and kindness; dawns and twilights infused with mineral light. Through all of that, I have come home to imperfect shelter and been grateful.
Next Wednesday I drive north alone. I will go home to a little one bed-room house in downtown Bend, Or. There is a wood-stove and a half cord of lodgepole pine. Forests stretch to the south. I will live in a city---and the company of tall dark trees.
I am already lonely for the hard Mojave. But, that is the nature of a sending.