Swamp Lanterns

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Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a plant called, “skunk cabbage”. You may know it, as it sprouts up in other parts of the country as well. It appears as a yellow sconce of slick petals housing a small “wick” of seeds. It can be quite startling passing by a “barren” patch of a mud hole for most of the year, then seeing these “surprises” pop up as a roomful of yellow lights, populating the ground with color.

The other name for this plant is “swamp lantern”. I prefer this name. I think it represents the plant more elegantly, and truer to its form. A thing of beauty. A thing of brightness. The unexpected emerging from the thick and lightless.

For those of us who traverse often or not so often, through the mud, we are grateful for swamp lanterns as they appear- yellow and bright, a sudden burst of glow from seemingly out of nowhere. This metaphor can reach into so many corners. A loving, energizing phone call or email in the middle of the day. The peeking out of the sun, creating seams of light on hems of dark clouds. A kind gesture, simple and human.

May swamp lanterns appear in the muddy places throughout your week. And may you, yourself, be a swamp lantern as well.

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In Passing

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Just a couple of days ago, a dear friend crossed one of the two ultimate thresholds; in his case, death. I think one of the most refreshing things I have ever heard, came from him during his last days. So honest. He said, “I really don’t know how long this will go on, hours, days, weeks?” He was truly present for the unknowable threshold that was unfolding. We sat with him. Enjoyed some well chosen words, planned on returning the next day with some requested tulips and chocolate, and then he slipped into unconsciousness, ultimately moving on to his next adventure. I wrote a poem about this moment I would like to share with you.

 

It is here.

 

You always wondered how you would go.

At a gas station with heart in flames, the ticking stopped,

then down for the count, a quick and simple death.

 

Or outliving your spouse, wandering the lonely halls

of forest and bedroom, your own soul, wondering

how you would manage as you slowly trickled away.

 

I’m sure in childhood, like the rest of us, you were sitting

in a rocking chair, on a porch, in some soft form of robe

or blanket, slowly disappearing into a long, long sleep.

 

But here you are. And even on your death bed, you say,

“I really don’t know how this works, how long I will go on,

will it be hours or days or weeks?” And you smile as we offer

you a tomorrow of flowers and chocolates alongside a book to read.

 

“That sounds lovely”, you say, then words slowly slip

from your veins and you go very quiet; and life slowly

drips from you body and you go very still; and now the

soul slowly seeps from your self, and

 

it is here.

– by Gina Marie Mammano

Being here. That’s all we can truly ask for every moment. May we all be here right now, together.