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Posts Tagged ‘life & death’

I had thought by the time I did this Writing Practice, we would be well into the green of Spring and Winter would have died a slow death. It’s green. But on the second day of May it dropped to 30 degrees. Ice crystals fell from the sky and pinged the windshield. I am still bundled in fleece, pulling a high collar up around the scruff of my neck to keep warm. Nature is unpredictable. So is the nature of one’s death. It happens that on the week we are writing about death and dying on red Ravine, Osama bin Laden would meet his demise. I feel no joy in his death. It is a strange mix of emotions, more like confusion and relief.

I remember the writing workshop with Natalie in Taos, New Mexico right after September 11th. She thought about canceling it but decided it was important to go ahead. It was a large group, over 50 writers, a talking workshop. The first night we went around the room, introduced ourselves, and spoke briefly about what it was like for each of us on September 11th. Some lived in New York, some had lost loved ones. I was more removed from the immediate impact. But it changed our country forever. Oddly, I don’t want to write about it. Not now. I will leave it for those whose voices ring with more certainty about what it all means. I can’t put labels on it. The whole ten years and two wars mostly makes me sad.

The older I get and the closer to death, the more I think about it. I can’t predict its time, but I can dedicate my life to living while I am on God’s green Earth. I listened to an interview with Janis Ian before seeing her in concert at the Fitzgerald last week. She had gotten very sick, and thought she may die in middle age. She said her thoughts on death before her illness were that she would take the time she had left to write songs, to write the perfect poem set to music. But when the time actually came, when she thought her life would be cut short, all she wanted to do was sit on the porch with her partner and watch the birds. To be close to her loved ones. That’s all that mattered.

It reminds me that I’m not going to be on my deathbed thinking about how hard I worked at all the jobs I have had over the years. It’s not likely I’ll be thinking of co-workers, the people with whom I’ve spent a majority of my daylight hours. I am more likely to want to spend time with Liz, stay close to home, hang out with the cats. I am more likely to want to go visit my mother and close family, to spend the time with friends I know I can trust. Friends with which I can share my deepest fears about dying and death.

There are moments when death doesn’t scare me. Late nights, when I wake up at 3am and can’t sleep, I do feel the fear. I try to befriend my idea of Death. It changes like the seasons. I do believe that life goes on after death. I find some comfort in that. I don’t have to get it right the first time. There can be second chances. But life will never be like the one I have right now, in this one moment. This is my life. I want to make the most of it while I am here.


-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — DEATH & DYING

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By Susy Crandall




sometimes keeping going is the only thing to do.
just put one foot in front of the other
even when all you want to do is


STOP


and jet off, uncoiling this mortal coil, snapping the cord
that holds you here on this
terrestrial ball


sometimes I have felt myself leaving
when I look up
at the stars or sun and moon.
after all, I have been there before
looking out over the backside
of the moon at Orion.


it’s nice up there.


still something keeps telling me “No, not yet—
there is much left to do and have
and let go of,
so it will be awhile.


but when I learn to make each day
one long song of Praise,
when doing what I don’t like to do is
Sacred


even if it’s nothing but lying flat on my back
staring at that ceiling in that nursing home
making a complete Heaven of boredom
finding God in smaller
and smaller things


till this body becomes translucent with age
and evaporates into
living through my death and death
And deaths after death.


besides, the more of me that dies
the clearer my sight becomes
and beauties I never saw before I see now,
the soft-shelled turtle a foot wide
that lives in the ditch,
or the coyote crossing the road at dusk,
that sandy haired cousin
of Baryshnikov,
or the colors in the clouds.


when I could leave, I wasn’t grounded
but neither was I finished being made
and now I know I’ll never be finished


so, “No,” I say to myself
when I’m really down and out and
I want to leave.
“Not yet.”


let’s just see what’s left,
what’s left waiting to be born
out of this piece of death
this peace of death


till the last breath whispers “Now,”
and I am ready to go
birthed into death
and gone home to my love.





_______________________________________




About Susy:  Itchin’ to write, to scrape the painfully unexpressed off internal organs and lay it out in fresh air and sunshine to heal, where sharing fractionates pain. Scrubbing out the last of my angst cabinets to fill with love and light to live, a worker among workers, a friend among friends.



-posted on red Ravine, Monday, April 18th, 2011

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC — DEATH & DYING, Does Poetry Matter?, and Tortoise Highway

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The Yogi (Cover Page)

The Yogi (Cover Page), 14/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 14, April 8th 2011, photo © 2011 by Kathy Nguyen (A~Lotus). All rights reserved. Medium: Digital Collage using Microsoft PowerPoint 2007.


Cover for a beautiful poem by Lotus — The Yogi. The poetry and collage combine to make the BlackBerry 52 Jump-Off for Week 14, and the inspiration for the response that rises to the top by the end of the day on Sunday. For me, her free verse relates to the current red Ravine Writing Topic — Death & Dying. Though we work independently, one in Texas, the other in Minnesota, over the course of our yearly collaboration, I find we are eerily in sync.

April is also National Poetry Month and I’m delighted to have received several submissions that I’ll be posting over the coming weeks. I’ll be working on free verse this weekend for a Strange Attractors collaborative art performance next Friday called Obsoletion Blues (Liz calls it a cellular swan song). Wish us luck!

Lotus and I will continue our call and response by posting a BlackBerry photo for the 52 weeks of 2011. Feel free to join us if you wish (learn about the project’s beginnings at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration). To read more about Lotus, visit her at alotus_poetry on Twitter (where she writes poetry every day in community with other Twitter poets), at Poetry By Lotus, and on her Flickr account.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, April 8th, 2011

-related to posts: Best Of BlackBerry 365 — First Quarter SlideShow, BlackBerry 365 Project — White Winter Squirrel, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Searching For Stillness, icicle tumbleweed (haiga) — 2/52, The Mirado Black Warrior, Waning Moon (Haiga), The Void — January Mandalas, haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52, Alter-Ego Mandala: Dreaming Of The Albatross (For Bukowski), EarthHealer — Mandala For The Tortoise

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WEB 2 AUTO - IMG00713-20100724-1953.jpg

Web & Dew: The Space Between, BlackBerry Shots, July 2010, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Over 90 inches of snow have disappeared from our lawn in temperatures that reach the 50’s by day, drop down to freezing at night. Winter is dying a slow death. Seasons change, transitions in temperament and landscape. The snowmelt runs into rivers and streams, the salt leaves potholes. But soon, tiny shoots of emerald will erupt through the dank, dead, chestnut grass. Winter must die to usher in Spring.

There is power in recognizing impending death. I remember the year my mother told me that when her time came, she was ready to die. We were visiting the South, walking down the cemetery hill from my grandmother’s grave in Georgia. I burst out crying; she hugged me and held me close. I thought the tears inside would never stop. “Honey, don’t worry,” she said. “I’m ready.”

Frankenbelly 3's Birthday - 321/365 Last year, my brother nearly died, before receiving a liver transplant at the 11th hour. It’s an experience that pulled our family together, one we share with countless others. If a person who loses their spouse is a widow, what’s the name for a child who loses a parent? Or a parent who loses a child? There should be a formal naming. For children, it should not be the word “orphan.” That implies that you never held the person close, lived with or loved your parent. There should be another word.

I think of what it must be like to be the one left behind. When I saw writer Joyce Carol Oates in Minneapolis at Talk of the Stacks last week, I bought her new memoir, A Widow’s Story. Her husband Raymond died unexpectedly late one winter night in 2008; the next morning Joyce was supposed to have gone to the hospital, picked him up, and brought him home to recover. It’s the story of loss, grief, and pain; of giant gift baskets, grieving cats, and mounds of trash; of how no one really understood. Yet in the end, she realized that everyone understood. Because Death is a universal experience. It’s just that we don’t talk about it anymore or know how to incorporate it into our lives.

Porkys Since 1953 There is more to Death than the loss of loved ones. Sometimes whole cultures die, like the Anasazi who inhabited the Four Corners country of southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and northern Arizona from about A.D. 200 to A.D. 1300, and then disappeared. Cultural traditions die, too, like Porky’s Drive-In in St. Paul. It was owned by the same family since 1953, and closed its doors last Sunday, April 3rd, 2011. Animals die, and it is certain that we will probably outlive many of our beloved pets (our cat Chaco died a few years ago, June 25th, 2009).

Groups we are in community with have life spans, too. Circles of intimacy change and grow; sometimes we end up leaving people behind. Or they leave us. During one session of a year-long Intensive with Natalie Goldberg, one of the participants was killed in a car crash. The group was stunned. These were people we thought we would sit and write with for an entire year. It was not to be. I remember we chanted the Heart Sutra. I remember finding comfort in the ritual.

Cemetery Fog At Workmens Circle - 70/365 Ah, I feel a heaviness this Spring. But it’s a collective heaviness. Like something is shifting in the Universe. There’s too much going on in the world, too many catastrophes, too many unexpected deaths, too many aging and dying people, too many widows and widowers, for there not to be something going on at the Spiritual level. But that’s just my belief. I know there are people who say this occurred at every period in history. But there are certain paradigm shifts that happen and change the planet as a whole. We can either learn our lessons and get on board the train that moves forward. Or stay stuck in the past, not doing the work that’s required of us.

It’s the New Moon. New beginnings. There is value in what has come before, in the history we have with other people we were close to at one time. It’s good to honor and remember. All of that follows us, and I believe we transform it. All energy is creative energy. Even the energy of Death. It cycles back around into new life. Death can be a release of suffering. It also creates a giant abyss of loss. Maybe we’d be wise to befriend the Grim Reaper. Maybe it is others who are dying or have passed over who teach us the courage and strength to face our own death. Maybe the space between death and dying…is life.


_______________________


Transitions - Catch & Release Though many of our ancestors accepted and honored the process of Death through rituals, sitting, slowing down, it feels like our fast-paced modern world doesn’t know how to stop moving, how to have a conversation about death and dying, or where to put it in the flow of our day-to-day lives. It makes for a good Writing Topic, a good topic for discussion on red Ravine. Why can’t we talk face to face about death? Maybe it’s easier to write about it.

Take out a fast writing pen and notebook, or fire up your computer and write Death & Dying at the top of your page. Then 15 minutes, Go! Or do a Writing Practice on everything you know about any aspect of death and dying. Please feel free to share any insights in the comments below.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, April 5th, 2011. Parts of the piece were taken from several Writing Practices written last weekend, April 2nd & 3rd.

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC — 3 QUESTIONS, Reflection — Through The Looking Glass, Make Positive Effort For The Good, The Uses Of Sorrow — What Is It About Obituaries?, Reading The Obits, and a great interview with Joyce Carol Oates on MPR Midmorning with Kerri Miller – A Widow’s Story — The Story Of Joyce Carol Oates

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Mr. Calavera

Mr. Calavera (calavera is the Spanish word for skeleton), pen and marker on graph paper, doodle © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




The Missus will be happy. I finally finished the drawing of her husband. He’s not an easy man—a hard-drinking, hard-living type who would have driven any good woman to die of love. But he’s also an old-fashioned guy, opens doors for women (probably too many doors and Lord knows where they lead) and his kids crawl all over him when he comes home late smelling of whiskey. He can ride a horse and slaughter a cow, grow a garden, hold his liquor. A man’s man. And a decent poker player, to boot.

And you know what? He’s just as devilish in the afterworld as he was in this one. But that’s OK, because over there life is easy. For the both of them. No guilt or sin or any of the baggage that keeps us running in circles in this world.

The Missus (aka Dying Love)Day of the Dead was celebrated last week on November 2nd. I hope my lovely couple—fashioned after my grandmother and grandfather, although if he really were Grandpa, he’d be wearing jeans and a cowboy hat, and a bolo tie if he had to dress up; everything else is the same, though—had a great time.

In this world they had a combustible marriage. Too many poker games, plus that damned redhead on Coco Street, and gambling away dinner for the next two weeks, which brought about a swing of the broom, or worse, when he came home late at night with his paycheck gone. But they were bigger-than-life-sized characters. I wouldn’t have wanted them to be any less explosive or colorful or real. I’m thinking of them this early November. Realizing how with each passing year I inch a little closer to taking their place in my family chain.

Happy Day of the Dead, all you living (for now) folk!



-Related to post Ghost Hunting — Tips & Tools Of The Trade

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Dark when I get up, dark when I drive home. Ghosts like this time of year. They can wander freely throughout the Universe, come and go, visit whoever they please. I haven’t seen any real ghosts in a long, long time. Yet I lay awake this morning from 4am to 6am, the time I got up to write this practice. I can’t help but think of Ada my grandmother when I think of ghosts. The way she came to see me in Minnesota after she died, made the trip all the way from Tennessee. I was a young woman the last time I saw her alive. She came to me in a ghost-like dream, told me she was alright, that she loved me, and said good-bye. It was the day after that I called Mom to see if she had died. I regretted not seeing her in person for so long; she let me know it was okay. I could feel at peace.

Leslea was more playful, the way she pulled at my toe and knocked the writing book off the shelf. It was around the time I was deeply immersed in my study with Natalie, debating whether to quit my day job for writing, haunted by the ghosts of what-if’s. Looking back, maybe I should have kept my day job. At least if I had wanted a secure financial future. But, then again, looking at the recession of the last few years, maybe it didn’t matter. I was happier leaving. And have made great strides in feeling secure as a writer, in setting up practices that sustain me, a community that holds me. That’s half the reason we started red Ravine.

I watch shows about the paranormal because they fascinate me. I’m fascinated because I’m curious about what happens after we die. I do believe that some souls are trapped between worlds. They wander and attach themselves to places where they lived in their physical lives. I also believe that most of us move on. To do different things in the next spiritual life. Maybe not all lives are spiritual. I happen to believe the work I do here now takes me to the next phase of whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing. This is all vague. Because it’s a Writing Practice and it’s the stream of my mind. It’s also vague because the afterlife is vague. No one really knows what happens after you die.

What if the afterlife is only what you believe it to be? That would make it different for each person. Some don’t believe in life after death at all. The physical death is the end. If I believed that, I would lose hope. That people can improve themselves and go on to something better. But back to Ghosts. I don’t summon them up, play the Ouija Board anymore. I don’t look for ghosts or ask them to appear. I don’t provoke or ask for signs. I might fall over if I saw a ghost of a person I didn’t know. Somehow, it doesn’t scare me to get visits from those I know who have passed to the other side. I count it as one of the many blessings of being in a body.

I want to be comfortable with my own death. But sometimes I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this year because my brother has been very sick. His liver has been failing for some time. I was prepared for the worst. Then, miraculously, the week after I got back from my last writing retreat on Lake Michigan, I got a text from him that they had a liver. He was on his way to Philadelphia. Last night we IM’d over Facebook as if nothing had happened. Except the miracle that is his life. He is energetic and full of energy. The 45 staples come out on Tuesday, the day I arrive. The story could have ended differently. In this case, the ghosts are Wonder, Joy, fragments of Disbelief in how a life could move so quickly from Death’s door.

Oh, and Death. I’m not so sure about the sickle and scythe thing. It’s too daunting. Maybe you should lighten up your wardrobe. It’s scary to the living. Or maybe you already have and we all don’t know how to change your ghost of an image. Whatever you are, I don’t want to be afraid. Shadow and Light, they all play in the same forest of autumn leaves.


-Related to Topic post: Ghost Hunting — Tips & Tools Of The Trade

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I love the idea of being able to see ghosts. I wish I could, I mean, really see ghosts. Like the main character from that TV series “The Ghost Whisperer.” I like how she’s always calm, even after the most jolting vision. Blood, vomiting ghosts, ghosts who have half their brains falling out of their heads. None of it rankles her.

Me, I’d have my eyes shut most of the time. And yet, I still want to see ghosts. The closest I get is seeing a flash of something out of the corner of my eye. Or I feel something, a prickle of fear, a chill running past me.

Ever since high school I’ve been fascinated by ghosts and people who can see them. Patrick, for instance. He told us stories about a recurring dream he had about his grandmother dying. She did die, in the house, and most of what he dreamed was exactly how she died. His parents had set up a room for her in the house, and they had a nurse and maybe another attendant taking care of her. When she died, he happened to walk by her room and notice that his parents and the attendants were all fussing about her. He was a boy, maybe 8 or 9, maybe 10, but young enough that when someone noticed that he had stopped in the doorway and was looking in on the scene, one of them, maybe his mother, rushed to him and scooped him away.

But in the dream, when they notice that he’s standing at the door to the room watching all the chaos, instead of sweeping him out the room they all walk calmly to one side of his grandmother’s bed. His grandmother is dead but she slowly sits up, opens her eyes then turns toward Patrick. At that point in his dream he wakes up.

I remember him saying that whenever he woke up from this dream he smelled his grandmother’s powder, that kind of old-lady stuff that comes in a round container. Or he woke to the sound of her cane tap-tapping on the brick floors down the hallway.

We always wanted to hear more, and I remember he told us once that one day he went crazy trying to find the source of the powder smell. He dug through his grandmother’s old closet and under boxes and boxes of clothing and shoes and hats, until there he found it, one pink container with her powder. He told us about sitting in the bathtub once and having the water go completely cold, then the smell of old-lady powder.

He told us these stories after we’d graduated and would hang out together at night, already at the university yet not ready to let go of the friendships we’d had that defined who we were. I had just moved into a studio apartment that was haunted. All sorts of freaky things happened to me the short time I was there. A phone call in the middle of the night, a child’s voice on the other end asking for his mother. It sounded like a party in the background. The child wouldn’t answer me when I asked, Where are you? What’s your name?

And black dogs out the front door, this was right after the movie “The Omen” had come out. Black dogs were bad signs, and one afternoon, a rare cloudy New Mexico day I opened the door and there were two, the same exact kind from the movie. But the kicker was one night when my pillow rolled off the bed and onto the floor heater. I woke up choking, the room full of thick smoke.

When Patrick came the next morning to see if he felt ghosts at my place, he walked in and gasped as if he’d been punched in the chest. He looked at me and said, You’re getting out of here. He waited by the doorway while I packed a bag with enough stuff to last me a few nights. That next week we moved me out, but we only went to the house during the day. I never went back alone.

I still remember sitting up with Patrick, and my best friend Denise. I think I might have moved into an apartment with my friend Ellen. It was one of those nights when we all sat on my bed, all of us friends, and made Patrick tell us one scary story after another. We made ourselves so scared that no one left my place that night. We all slept on the bed like a litter of pups.



-Related to post Ghost Hunting — Tips & Tools Of The Trade

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