The Cloisters sits on dark granite at the north end of Manhattan and overlooks the Hudson River. My 94-year-old father, 3½-year-old granddaughter, and I are driving south. I realize we can stop at the Cloisters on our way. My crew will be happy for a break. The Metropolitan Museum of Art houses medieval European works in this place. The Cloisters is a serene oasis, originating with bequeaths from artist George Barnard and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
I picked up Dad first, or Grandpa Jerry, as Carmen calls him. He’s 94 and can remember many poems by heart. But short term memory is going. He’s cheerful though. I wake him up and he smiles with minimal teeth. “We are going, Dad. Today is the day.”
I watched a student from the Florida high school give a speech just days after the deadly shooting on February 14, 2018. Her words were measured and clear. Her expression was steely-eyed and strong. She went on, at times wiping a tear from her eye. She didn’t hesitate. I listened, stopped what I was doing, turned my head to the side in awe. She spoke the truth, with verve and courage. She spoke the obvious, shaking in resonance from their traumatic experience. As a grandmother and a young elder, I was moved to stand with her, behind her in support.
Seasonal gatherings provide a way to attune together in a group. We write from prompts related to the season and element. Stories emerge from each person that awaken us together. Universal truths shine through and we laugh and sometimes cry at the poignant or delicate truths that resonate.
It was 3:30 a.m. and I woke with a start to the cell phone. My 93-year-old Dad was on the line. “Hey, Jen, I’m having chest pain and shortness of breath. I threw up a while ago. Should I do something?” “Yes, Dad. Let’s get the nurse [in the retirement home] to come and check you.”
The other day I was washing my face in the bathroom. The light was such that I noticed the arching lines around my forehead. I made a face to highlight them and turned to look askance at my visage. Then I burst out laughing. I am getting old!
The Dalai Lama said at the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit that “The world will be saved by the western woman.” I felt the power of western women when I marched on Saturday, January 21 at the Women’s March.
In many traditions people perform practices on a daily basis to clear their minds and promote strength of heart. Sometimes the right action is not obvious and often not predictable. That is why practices on a daily basis are important. Musicians and athletes practice daily to be ready to play well. For Joan of Arc one practice was prayer and silent reflection.
The words and music of the hit musical Hamilton make me laugh, cry and stare straight ahead with dropped jaw as I drive north on a trip. The story is riveting, the music seductive. I smile and shake my head. Later, I pull out a $10 bill, "the ten dollar, founding father,” and there he is, Alexander Hamilton. He’s been in my life all along, and I never knew his story.
Every season is unique. Now in August and September we have brilliant late afternoon sun and locusts buzzing. Fields are full of vegetables and trees with fruit. Each season has familiar characteristics that we all know. The cycle of seasons mirror within us, and we shift gradually from one season to the next. When we take note of these changes, we find harmony more easily within ourselves and with others...
Within each of us is a lot of mud, a rich mix of life experience that includes pain and suffering as well as happiness and joy. How to benefit from this mix is dependent on our ability to be awake and conscious.
It seemed like a good idea. I was 19 and always wanted a horse. I could get $200 for my car and buy the horse for exactly that amount. Done. I made the deal.
We walked her away from the farm down the road towards our house. She was a beautiful Palamino mare. Her year old colt whinnied and ran along the fence as we walked out of sight. My heart skipped a beat at the sight of that young colt. Little did I realize then what a long ride it is to the grocery store on a horse
We all experience anger. How we express, manage and understand its power is a challenge for everyone. To the ancient Chinese anger was one of five primary emotions that cycled through life. To observe nature is to see a variety of expression. To observe ourselves is to see that same variety in human life.
“Heavenly Pivot” is the name of an acupuncture point that lies on the abdomen beside the naval. The name reveals the purpose of the point used in treatment. It is a pivotal place between the earth and the heavens at the mid-point of a human being. The effects of needling that point are multi-dimensional: physical balance, improved digestion, mental and emotional groundedness. The name “Heavenly Pivot” captures the spirit of this point and in many ways, acupuncture practice itself. It implies the capacity to pivot easily with feet on the ground and a connection to the heavens, to breath, to inspiration.
I’m about to start the car and I realize I left my purse in the house. I’m already late leaving. Jump out, run in, push door open, blast back out pulling it locked behind me. While on the front steps, I see on the sidewalk below a woman I recognize but don’t know. She is running in slow motion, just about to pass my house. She is a bit older, I think, with a kind face and nice brown skin. She sees me and looks up, smiles, and gestures for me to go first. I pause mid-step and take in the scene.
The Turnpike opens before me, lane lines illuminated by dawn light, red tail lights blinking. I am on the road again, suspended between chapters. In meditation we talk about the space between the breaths, the breathing in and breathing out. Stillness holds the world together. Driving a car is freedom. It is the space between. On one end, home and my life there. On the other, wherever I am going today.
The colon in Chinese medicine is the Great Eliminator. Revered for the capacity to let go, this organ plays a vital role in the cycle of life. Constipation makes life miserable and uncomfortable. In our fast paced, sound bite culture, there is grief constipation.
Around the late forties or fifty we begin to experience a radical shift in our inner state. It demands attention because it is an immense change in perspective. This is the beginning of the “second half of life.” The more consciousness we bring to this time and this process, the more we reap the harvest of our life.
We always laugh when we first see each other, throw our arms out for a hug, and laugh again. This is our yearly visit.
She looks at me with curiosity as the light from the window illuminates her face. I notice the lines and bone structure of the face of my friend of 35 years. She is in no hurry and folds her legs up under her on the end of the couch. I sit on the opposite end with legs stretched out and crossed. My knees hurt so I can no longer sit on them, but I appreciate that she can. I have always loved her simple, unadorned beauty. She looks older in a most delightful way. Her full head of hair, laced with grey, jumps from around her face.
I am sitting in a Chinese coffee shop in the Sheep’s Head bay part of Brooklyn, around the corner from Amelia’s apartment.This is my break from being grandma to my bright eyed, head-full-of-hair newborn grandchild, Carmen.Amelia and Carmen’s Daddy, Brent, are bonding by immersion in parenthood.How engaging to have such an aware baby who is yet so helpless and in need of their and my protection.
We sit around the large round table off to the side in the memory unit or “Gardens Pavilion.” Dad, me, hospice nurse Karen, and death doulah/friend Jane.
Mom is barely awake at the moment and is weak and thin. She does not appear to be uncomfortable. In fact, last night, Jane met her for the first time as Mom shifted in her bed in a semi-sleep state. Jane, who has accompanied many people on their crossing the “threshold” as she calls it, kneels on the floor so she can get close to mom. She rubs calendula cream on her elbow, red from friction with the sheet. She takes her time, slowly watching Mom’s movements and her facial expressions. Mom smiles momentarily, looks pensive, then asleep.