A Fresh Morning Perspective from a Friend

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I asked the whitebark pine

 

a question, and he said to me,

“aren’t you glad we don’t all talk?”

And in silence he spoke:

a million voices whining, droning in

each other’s ears like a carnival madhouse?

Each leaf, each tendril, each rooty spine spinning

sounds, yabba, yabba, yabba, yabba.

The quiet madness of the mosquito multiplied

more than a million times over?

Aren’t you glad some of us convey

by bark, by bearing, by Being?

Aren’t you glad some of us commune

in the quiet witness of Living?

 

and in Silence, I understood.

 

  • Gina Marie Mammano

The Before-Math

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It’s important to squeeze the most fun out of a midlife rite of passage. Every drop of day is a chance to lap up the melting butter of existence, especially at the halfway point, or should I say, the half-and-half point (dairy humor).

We were preparing for our guests, spreading sheets and comforters over beds in smooth layers of polished cotton, plunking on pillows and daubing on extra blankets, when somewhere between the prepping and the plumping, I got a spark in my eye and a sparkle in my spirit. Lamenting the recent passing of Eagles singer Glen Frey (I’m a fan) and intent on celebrating the present moment, I began to sing “Well I’ve been runnin’ down the road tryin’ to loosen my load, I’ve got seven women on my mind . . .” as my fellow bed making friend began to harmonize the tune with me. It turned into an hour long tribute to the late singer, mixing in alternate lyrics that suited the occasion and some vocal twang whenever desired. Now that’s a way to get chores done!

The trip to the post office was just as bad– I mean good– I mean ridiculous. Picture two gurgling, giggling junior-high aged souls housed in a couple of midlife bodies, simmering, hissing and howling with humor several decades beneath them. Yes, the priming of the pump is about as important as the event itself. And so, I highly recommend a pair of obnoxious loose-cannon attitudes as the beginning fanfare for any large life event.

 

 

Collecting

 

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As our little group gathered into a bouquet of faces that represented so many poignant things to me– constancy, enduring relationship, shared history, valued friendship, unique interpersonal alchemies– I realized once again the value of intentional collecting. Not just once, not just twice, but over and over again.

Collecting for a milestone celebration (like a rite of passage), collecting for a documentary movie night, collecting for good food and the sharing of current creative projects– can naturally lead to eventually collecting for support during a health crisis, or collecting for a time of guidance, or collecting for some cheerful encouragement amid the long term difficulties of aging. But it seems to me, the key for intentional collecting is making it a practice. Not a droll, dull, gotta gotta do it practice, but a lovely, can’t wait to see them, this will give my soul a breather, this is gonna be great! practice.

As I looked at this lovely collection of women in a warm honey-toned living room on a winter’s day, celebrating my 50th year with no-holds-barred dancing and breezy, contemplative walks, I realized that these are also the faces I hope to see when arthritis sets in and loss is the topic of the day. And we’ll only get there if we practice. Practice, practice, practice! Making hot tea together alongside heaps of Mulberry paper and cardstock to create notes of appreciation to the givers in our lives, singing show tunes and gnarly old hymns at a yearly apple picking gathering, or seeing each other for my 50th or her 40th or our 20th year together.

I don’t know about you, but I plan on collecting for a very long time . . . .

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.

“I Am”

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I have a friend who asked me, “are relationships places of surrender?” I held one gentle fist over the other in front of me in the shape of a small spine and said, “I am.” I encouraged her to do the same. Once we both established our “I ams”, our individualities, our proclamations of being in the world, I got up, and linked arms with her. We walked around the room a bit, as if taking a stroll into the world together and I once again made the same gesture, fist over fist in my own personal soul-spine and said “I am” while arms still linked. “Are you still I am, too?” I asked her? “Yes,” she replied, “I am.” I noticed tears of relief and understanding as she felt the possibilities of partnering relationship with individuality.

This little exercise was revolutionary and revelationary, though so so simple. We can be the being we are in all of our strength and still be linked to another without giving up our identity, our authenticity, our integrity. It seems so simple- almost too simple, but powerful. “I am.”

How are you “i am” today, alone, and linked with the “I am” of others?

Sipping the Nectar of “Ordinary” Days

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picture by Ginny Schneider

As I continue on my journey through the days of  the ordinary (which, by the way, is amidst some rather “unordinary” life circumstances), I am reminded, believe it or not, of the word, “nectar” . Besides the sweet, sticky, sugary substance which is lifeblood for pollinators, one of its other definitions is “the life-giving drink of the gods.” That brings to mind for me some sort of amazing golden liquid that both delights and sustains.

So as I think about it, taking in the sweet, the good, the beautiful, the “daily amazing” nectar of life is literally “life giving”. Sucking the marrow, drinking the nectar, tasting the ambrosia are not only pleasantries, or delicacies for special occasions, but are actual necessities. We can’t do without them.

They are like the free gifts tumbled out on our doorstep with a note and a giggle as the giver runs away. They can be as simple as the relishing of the taste of coffee mixed with cream and warmth at breakfast time. Or the re-reading of an email or an instant message that was just so nice that it had to be savored again.

I received one of those today:

“I prayed for you on the edge of Spot Pond thinking of the water carrying my prayers to you on your island. Blessings. Blessings. Blessings.”

Refreshing. Tasty. Nectar. And you can always go back and savor it again, as memory is its perfect gustatory accompaniment!

Happy daily ambrosia to you!

The Threshold Choir: helping others through transitions

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photo by Ginny Schneider

Yesterday, I practiced sitting bedside. There were three of us and our voices created a beautiful moonlike glow of sound all around a friend lying reclined on a living room chair. As the simple songs floated over her, and our voices listened intently to one another, I felt once again even in myself the healing power of song and of creating an ambiance together that helps smooth the path for another from transition to transition, whether it’s from sickness to health, or busyness to slowing down. In this case, we were treating a friend to sweet, calming music after a tiring week, and syncing our voices together to prepare for others who could benefit from this gift.

Music really can help us do that. Our little threshold choir often helps those transitioning from sickness to health, or illness to death, but, really, song has been used for centuries, millennia, to “cover the threshold with flowers”- to lift a child into the realm of sleep, to mark the changes and passages of the day, or to aid a friend, or even ourselves into hopes and reassurances. What song or melody can gently hold your hand through a transition today?