Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Brave and Startling Truth by Maya Angelou



We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I LOVE CARBS!


Somewhere in between the Atkins Diet and Gluten mania, carbs have gotten a seriously bad rep. When I just wrote “carbs are…” into my google search engine, I got back “bad,” “making you fat,” “KILLING YOU." I just felt so bad for the Carbohydrate, my little super engine that could. I mean Carbs have done so much for me that I feel it’s time to take a stand for the almighty CHO.



What’s CHO?
Carbohydrates really deserve respect. Especially if you’re an athlete!! CHO is the chemical shorthand. C=Carbon H=Hydrogen O=Oxygen.  According to, you know, medicine and science, humans should be getting 45% to 65% of their calories from CHO. I won’t go too much in detail on the scientific specifics of CHO because I’m not a Registered Dietician or a doctor. But CHO is present in most of what we commonly think of as our healthiest foods already. Super fad foods like kale and quinoa, those are carbs ya’ll. Coconut water, way more carbs that regular water. Just sayin’.

If you’re a pretty health conscious person, you’re probably already eating a lot of healthy carbs and avoiding the “carbs that will kill you.” Refined sugar, alcohol, processed bleached grains, we all know that these things are delicious but basically have zero nutritional benefit.

Still, if you’re looking to lose weight, you need carbs!

Here’s why:
Carbs are filling! Carbs make you happy and energized!
Yes, salads have carbs, but a handful of kale does not a meal make. Eating and the process of digesting healthy grains sends a message to your brain that you are full. Usually when we’re full, we don’t eat more. Unless we’re spending the afternoon watching Downton Abbey on the couch. Hey, it happens.

If you eat healthy carbs earlier in the day, cooked oatmeal, brown rice or quinoa for breakfast. Even the demonized whole-wheat toast, you get to use that energy all day long, isn’t that nice? And you’re less likely to have outbursts because you’re on a crazy juice cleanse or something (also CHO, by the way). No one wants to hang out with you when you’re not eating enough and obsessing over your weight and stressing about how much you eat. This does not help you make friends or lose weight. It spikes stress response and cortisol and all other kinds of hormone messengers that keep you’re body from losing weight. Stop stressing and start eating..CARBS! 

If you’re really trying to lose weight eat a majority of your calories earlier in the day, for breakfast and lunch and have a lighter dinner, like a brothy soup with lots of veggies.

The trick to carbs is watching out for high sugar content. Even, maybe especially, if you’ve gone gluten-free, watch out for the sugar content of those foods. If you’re worried about your weight, better to spend energy thinking about the glycemic index (GI) than stressing about eating too many carbs. Choose foods with a low GI.

Here’s how I love to eat carbs:
*I buy in bulk and always have the following grains in my house.
-Brown rice
-Quinoa
-Lentils
-Oats
-CousCous
-Pasta-full of gluten because regular spaghetti is the bomb! But you could go with whole grain, or Brown rice, quinoa pasta if you’re GF
-Asian noodles, rice noodles thin and thick, soba noodles, udon noodles

*I cook in bulk.
I find the best way to avoid eating a bag of chips while driving from work to yoga to workout is to bring food with me. So, once a week I’ll make a grain salad using any of the above grains. Mixing in veggies, sweet potatoes, squash, beans, and a small amount of protein. I’m also very fond of the sandwich; pile it high with veggies and just a little protein and you are good to go. I like adding grains to soup as well.

*I have some kind of treat with sugar once a day. I know sugar will probably kill us all, but a little dark chocolate, glass of red wine, or a cookie after lunch or dinner really makes me feel satisfied. It’s like a signal that I’m done eating. I have not yet done a scientific study on this, but I really think it prevents me from overeating. It’s a working theory. 

I’m sure you already know all of this because you’re all quite a bit smarter than me. But I just felt like the CARB needed to be defended. It is the foundation to a healthy diet. STOP OVEREATING PROTEIN! Seriously, stop. If you love good carbs, they will love you right back. I swear.

Here’s a recipe from a SUPER EASY dish I made the other day that can be good as a traveling dish as well. I’m trying to get better at measuring because I often just cook with what I have and don’t always remember how I cook things. So bear with me on this one. I'll get better at writing out recipes.

Asian Noodle Stirfry 

Ingredients:
-1 package Udon noodles, they usually come wrapped in three sections, I used the whole thing (can use rice noodles or gluten free rice pasta for more similar consistency)
-1 TBL Coconut Oil for cooking veggies
-1 TBL Sesame Oil
-1/2 TBL Low Sodium Soy Sauce or Braggs Liquid Aminos
-1 tsp. Rice Vinegar
-1 tsp. Chili Pepper Flakes
-1 tsp. Chili Powder
-1 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
-3 cloves Garlic minced
-1 TBL. FRESH grated Ginger
-1 TBL Toasted Sesame Seeds
-1/2 cup Cilantro
-1/4 cup Green Onion
-1/2 Yellow Onion
Choose from the veggies and protein in your fridge:
I used:
-Red pepper
-Purple cabbage
-Carrots
-Broccoli
-Mushrooms
-Chicken (leftovers from previously cooked whole chicken)

-In a wok, cook onion and veggies, pepper, chili flakes and powder on medium low heat in coconut oil, retain crispiness
-In a separate pot, cook noodles and rinse with cold water
-Add protein, garlic, and ginger to the dish (if not already cooked, cook in separate dish and then add)
-Add noodles, sesame seeds, green onion, cilantro, and other oils/soy sauce, combing together. Cook for a few minutes on low heat.
-Season to taste



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Real love, I'm searchin' for a real love


Happy Valentine's Day, people! Before we get too deep into cards with teddy bears and heart shaped boxes full of chocolate, let's take a moment to appreciate real love. It's not always romantic. When best applied it extends not to those you care for most, but those who you may have an urge to punch in the face. Love is not a feeling or a destination to race towards in a relationship. It's not the three words, "I LOVE YOU." 

Real love is deep, wide, expansive, infinite. Love is the invisible string that binds us to one another. Love is being patient in line at Starbucks. Love is looking people in the eye. Love is action. It's not how you feel, it's how you strive to live. With presence, compassion, kindness, a generous and open heart. 
  
Adapted from Swami Sivananda’s Bliss Divine

Love is the law of life. 
To love is to fulfill the law. 
And to fulfill the law means eternal peace and everlasting happiness.
This world has come out of love. 
It exists in love. 
It finally dissolves in love. 

Love is the motive-power of the universe.
Love is constructive and creative. 
Love binds and builds. 
Love is the principle of regeneration.
 Love is an actual substance you can use with confidence. 

Love is a positive, concrete thing. 
He who applies the law of love with scientific precision can work wonders. 
The law of love is a far greater science than any modern science. 
The law of love prevails among saints and good men.

To live is to love. 
To love is to live. 
You live that you may learn to love.

There is no virtue higher than love; there is no treasure higher than love; there is no knowledge higher than love, there is no law higher than love; there is no religion higher than love; because love is truth.  



Thursday, January 23, 2014

This Year I Resolve to be Less Resolute



I’m really glad it’s almost February. Don’t get me wrong; I love Winter Clearance Sales and making
big pots of soup. But the whole New Year, New Me, New Attitude thing, I’m just not really into it. I have personally never been one to make resolutions in January, mostly out of deep seeded rebellious tendencies. But also out of a sensation that resolutions seem laced with guilt, cut with self-conscious poison.

There was nothing wrong with you. I love the you from 2013, just as you were. If you want to run a marathon or take up knitting, awesome! I support the desire for self-improvement and learning and pushing boundaries. But just so long as we can agree that you are already WHOLE. Changing your diet for a month will not make you a different person. Letting go of any expectation of how you will look or feel or be, start with that first. Then if you want to workout go-ahead girl, do your thing. But don’t do it with the expectation that at the end of the month your going to run or down dog your way into a different body or a different life. The moments I feel most self-confident have had zero correlation to what I weigh or how I look. Peace is not a number on a scale or even the crossing of the finish line. It’s in recognizing that I am not my body. My body is my vehicle through this life and as such deserves tune-ups and oil changes and dusting. But it will rust and the paint will chip and eventually it will break down. You can’t take it with
you, folks.

I love being active! I especially love running. There is so much freedom in running. The sensation of your body working, taking you places, giving yourself time to organize your thoughts and then clear your head, it’s totally awesome. It’s basically my favorite thing to do. Sometimes I run because I ate too much cake or drank too much wine, but primarily I run because I love running. It pumps me full of endorphins and makes me feel like I could conquer the world. Perhaps when I first got into running, I had a goal in mind to lose weight and get fit. I am not trying to dissuade anyone from giving up on making goals necessarily. I just want to discourage the guilt of goal setting and encourage the joy of activity and taking up empowering pursuits. If you love it, you’ll keep doing. It shouldn’t always feel like a chore.

Honestly part of this stems from a random article I read a few months ago about women and body issues. Yeah, yeah, I know right? Women worrying about their bodies is nothing new. That being said, a study commissioned by LYCRA BEAUTY revealed that the average woman spends 12 hrs a week worrying about how she looks and 2 hrs a week worrying that shes overweight.

What the fuck, ladies?!

This isn’t time spent putting on make-up or shaving your legs or getting dressed. This is time fretting, hours of anxiety instead of peace. Time spent thinking that you’re not enough. That you could be improved. That you’re not freaking gorgeous just as you are. Because you are! You are freaking gorgeous! Women are way better looking than men. Artistically, ascetically speaking, way hotter, gals. With the expectation of some gay men, we dress better, we smell better, our skin looks nicer. We are the better-looking sex. Why not just own that instead of trying to out do ourselves.


And who decided that wrinkles and cellulite and stretch marks are disgusting. Fuck that person! I have had both cellulite and stretch marks since I was like 13. No matter how many miles I run, planks I hold, or skin products I buy, that shit ain’t going away. And you know what, when I’m out in the world wearing short shorts, bikinis, and my underwear on several occasions in my 20’s, I don’t ever think about it, AT ALL. Because no one has ever said to me, “Oh, you’d be really beautiful except for that cellulite under your right butt cheek.” Or “Yeah, I just saw your stretch marks so I’m going to stop making out with you now.”

We know intuitively and intellectually that beauty has very little to do with looks. But it’s hard, those moment just before we get in the shower to not hold up our breasts and wish they were a little perkier or smooth the lines that are forming around our eyes. But way back when we didn’t have lines and our breasts were perkier, we were worrying about something else entirely. So, what awesome part of your body are you taking for granted now by spending 2 hrs a week worrying about your weight? Honor your temple as it is right now. Right in this moment. Know that you cannot be improved upon. It is only your vision that is ugly, you mind that needs to be wiped cleaned.

You know, I may have cellulite and stretch marks, but my legs have literally carried me up mountains and run me through marathons. My eyes may be getting lines, but let them be laugh lines, not lines acquired worrying that my butt was too big in these pants. Let me spend less of my time fretting about this skin deep self and more time meditating on the Supreme Being that resides deep within. May this meditation reveal the beauty of my Inner Divine Light. May I be at peace with myself enough to shine this Light in all directions, to all beings. Own it. Love it. Don’t abuse it, misuse it, or neglect it. We are power and grace and beauty incarnate.

Now, that's a resolution I can get behind.
http://www.gulanmusic.com/meditation.html

Friday, November 8, 2013

This is Why We Practice: 5 things I learned when my house burned down


There will come a day, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day that you will have to stand in your sweaty running shorts watching helplessly as your house burns down. Thick black smoke billows to the sky, taking along with it the material trappings of your life. Your fancy Garmin watch beeps to remind you that you are no longer running, as you were just moments before. Just moments before, when you were enjoying the sunny September morning, filled with excitement and anticipation for your first day of yoga teacher training, thinking about what your were going to have for lunch, and then you turn the corner. You think, hmmm, that’s strange, why is there a dark cloud up ahead? As you get closer little bits of understanding fill in your consciousness, that’s not a cloud, that’s smoke. Wait, that smoke’s coming from my house. And then, it registers, Holy shit! My house is on fire!

There’s not a lot else that passes through your mind after that. You just kind of stand there, one hand propping up your elbow as the other hand covers your mouth and the side of your face. In yoga, we often talk about the “true Self” versus the material self. The true Self being Atman, your true nature, the god within you, and the small self all that other stuff you wear for the world as your identity. I’m a woman, a husband, a CEO, a fill in the blank. The Bhagavad-Gita, the classic text of yoga practice and Hindu tradition, is often described as an allegory of life, a life in which a very real internal battle is waged between these two selves, the lower self versus the higher Self. Perhaps your battlefield won’t involve watching your house burn down in your running shorts, but it will most certainly involve some life altering, earth shaking experiences.

In my moment of trauma I very clearly recognized my material self and my true self splitting in two. In our culture we sometimes refer to this as an “out of body” experience, but I think it’s much deeper than that. I could very clearly distinguish my two natures, the smaller worldly self versus the big guy, the divine Self. As these two identities pulled apart, each felt a very different reaction to the chaotic scene before me. My little self totally panicked, of course, as it so often does, immediately worrying about all my fancy pants and high tech kitchen appliances. But its whiny noise was totally drowned out by my divine nature. I’m happy to report my higher Self arrived in that moment and totally crushed it. As flames and smoke quickly destroyed all the things I purchased with money over the course of my entire earthly existence, my small self retreated like the coward that it is. I stood there in stillness with the fire trucks and the hoses and people running back and forth and other people asking if I was ok, and I was, I was actually ok. I was quite literally overcome by an unmistakable sense of peace. Doctors might call this “shock,” instead, I think it’s better to call it surrender. Surrender to this moment. Be present for your own undoing. Soak it in because really, how often do you get to watch as your house burns down? Om Namah Sivaya, indeed. That guy does not mess around.


Of course, after the smoke cleared, my little self arrived once again, drowning out the calm of my divine nature. My peace was replaced with a reminder of how inconvenient it is to have to inventory all your possessions, not to mention the supreme hassle of replacing all your shit. But I have to say, god, or however you want to refer to it in your belief system, stayed with me for quite a while that day and in the days that followed. With me while walking through the house with the firefighters, granting serenity when taking in the apocalyptic scene that had once been my living room. And then arriving in other forms, strangers, friends, family, co-workers. It’s been a month since my house burned down and now reflecting on the whole experience, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude, gratitude for my practice, for my people, and for my crazy, brilliant, undeniably awesome life.

Here it is, five things I learned when my house burned down:
1) Prayer works.
Recently I had the great privilege to be a part of a Bhagavad-Gita discussion with Ravi Nathwani. He advised that prayer matters. If you feel you can’t change the world with your action, pray on it. I personally struggle with disbelief in the power of prayer. I mean, isn’t prayer just wishful thinking? It might make you feel better but does it actually make its way to the receiver? Does it actually do anything? Yes! Turns out that when a lot of people are praying for you, you can actually feel it. Seriously. I can’t really explain it in words, other than to say; it fills you with peace and strength, a kind of cosmic energy transfer. Call it prayer, loving kindness meditation, positive thinking, affirmations, good vibes, whatever, but I’m telling ya, it’s real. The energy embedded in the sincerity of your prayer, the love that fills your positive intention, it’s powerful stuff.

2) You have everything you need already, but a good bed makes you a better person.
Money can’t buy happiness, but let’s be real, it sure does help. Yes, spiritually speaking, I am whole no matter where I am or who I’m with or what I have, but I’m no monk. I like stuff. Caffeine, chocolate, booze, overly priced yoga clothes, scarves, the list goes on. I like having a computer and a fancy blender that pulverizes raw almonds in my morning smoothie. And I LOVE my bed. My husband and I purchased our bomb-tastic California King bed but six months to the day before it was destroyed in our recent fire and, aside from a sweet outfit at Target and some toiletries, it was the fist thing we repurchased after the event.

It makes us better people. I am more calm and kind and peaceful because I sleep in a mac-daddy bed. I know this is counter to all that I was saying before about the higher self and all that, but I just want to make it clear that we didn’t walk away from our material lives to live in a cave somewhere. We just re-bought a lot of the stuff that we regularly use. And while technically, we don’t need these things, it’s pretty tough to go from having a lot to having nothing and feeling comfortable. I am not about to sleep on the floor or wear someone else’s hand me downs for the long haul. So, it does feel like we need these things.

Fortunately, we have resources. We have a savings account and generous people in our lives that have sent us checks and gift cards and boxes of really nice clothes. Losing so much at one time allows you to evaluate your wealth, financial wealth, health wealth, and most of all your community wealth, the people in your life who show up for you. It’s a great gift. We are very lucky. Not to make light of our experience, but in just a few short days we had more stuff in our house than probably 80% of the world population. And now a month later, we have way more than two people really need, the only clue to our recent loss in the emptiness of our wall space. Which is kind of fun because now we have room to put up new art.
3) Human nature is compassion.
There’s been a long drawn out debate in the history of civilization concerning the make-up of human nature. Are we survivalist animals? Will we destroy someone else for our own gain? Or are we something else entirely? Hume called it, “fellow-feeling,” empathy for others. I know that we do some pretty terrible stuff to each other for our own personal gain, but I’ve always believed that there was something more compelling about the human story. That in fact, all the ruinous, destructive behavior has been learned in our culture and at the core of our being, our most basic instinct is love. There’s the argument for the other way around, of course, that we are savages who have learned how to love, but I think we are all just lovers who’ve learned how to be afraid. We’ve learned how to fight.

It’s like this, when buildings blow up and bombs go off, it’s not as if people stand around contemplating whether or not they should run into burning buildings, that’s their first reaction. We run into danger to save the life of another, that’s our story. And when we hear of someone’s suffering, we are compelled to act. The greatest gift of your house burning down is recognizing that people arrive to you with their best self, their true nature. Their instinct is to reach out to you. I know this because it wasn’t just my close friends who sent cards or clothes or whatever, but people I had never even met. People who I didn’t have a close relationship with who, as far as material possessions go, have way less than I do giving me a gently worn sweatshirt or coffee mug. Compassion is not something we learn in our culture, it’s what we are. It is pretty overwhelming to be on the receiving end of that kind of lesson. It is a lesson far more precious than any cashmere sweater.

4) GET RENTER’S INSURANCE!
Seriously, it’s like $20 a month. If you don’t have it, get it…now. Stop reading this article right now and get some personal property insurance. Trust me!


5) This is why we practice.
All the pranayama and the savasana and the arm balances, it’s all just preparing you for this. We practice for the day our house burns down.  We practice because deep down we know that our house is already burning down anyway. We know that life is impermanence. Change is inevitable. One day your physical body will die. We practice to surrender to this truth. Fire or no fire, my favorite pair of sweats would not be around in five years no matter how hard I clung to them.

While it’s jarring and pretty emotional to watch it all go up at once, it’s also kind of wild, inspiring, liberating. I have had my moments of tears and feeling totally ungrounded, but within all the mess of that, I know who I am without all my stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I really like all my stuff, but everyday I show up on my mat and I practice being empty. Yoga practice provides a space to get familiar with the Self. The same Self that occupies the space between galaxies, that bridges political and religions divides, that spans through time. The Self that knows no boundaries. The Self that is whole in nothingness. All the sun salutations and meditation, it’s all just preparing you for this moment. On that day when our house is burning down, when we are called on to surrender, we don’t cling. We let go.


I want to send out a special shout out to some particular folks who model grace, compassion, and love to me in this lifetime. Of course our parents, close friends and family, and community at Walker Creek Ranch. Particularly want to send out a deep ripple of gratitude to my yoga community for participating in this practice with me and encouraging me on the journey. All my dear friends at Inner Evolution Yoga, your love is heart expanding, thank you for your friendship, especially the most lovely and super gorgeous, Sandrine Petit, Leanna Hamilton, and Amy Guthrie. To the founder of Teeki yoga clothing, Lindsay Hemrick, for outfitting me in STYLE. I loved teeki hotpants before not just because they’re cute but also conscious and compassionate clothing. I’m officially a convert. To the yogis at The Mindful Body that I never met but donated to me with open hearts. A special thanks to my teachers, Caroline Kelley and Maile Sivert for just enormous support and sheer awesomeness of presence and love and all the ladies in my TTC whose spirits I could feel sending me love before I even met them. To my yoga family at Yoga Toes in Point Reyes, we are blessed to have this space to practice together, it’s magical; Amanda Giacomini, Peggy Orr and Jim Desser, MC Yogi, Rachel Meyer, Debbie Daly, Maile Sivert deserves double thanks. To my hubby, “always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name.” I’m blessed to be on this journey with you. And finally to Morgan Wade, a dear friend with whom I am now bound to for life. The words "soul mate" should be reserved for moments like those and people like you.

Morgan Wade Photography

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Autumn: the Beauty of Surrender


As it so happens, it’s a beautiful Sunday morning and here I am thinking about death. More specifically the art of dying. Art of dying, you ask? Yes, art of dying. Nature knows that dying is an art form. How else do you explain Autumn? You New Englanders especially know what I’m talking about.




I LOVE the Fall. Football season starts again. I get to bring out my sweaters and be revived by the crisp fall breezes. Desserts are pumpkin and cinnamon flavor. Those are just several reasons why I like the Fall.  But why do I love Fall so much? All the seasons have their charm, but Autumn is the only season that celebrates the beauty of dying. Its nature’s way of reassuring us that death is nothing to fear. Spring gets all the credit for being the season of rebirth. Being born is easy, surrender is the hard part. That’s why I love Autumn! Autumn is an opportunity to cultivate peace. Autumn is surrender. Autumn is a letting go, a shedding of layers. The Fall doesn’t linger in vanity. It gets rid of the things it doesn’t need. It makes itself bare, totally naked. This vulnerability actually provides the substance it needs to make it through the harshest season. The howling winds, the frost, the freezing, the heavy burden of winter’s snow, the Fall prepares for the darkness that lies ahead. Autumn looks death straight in the eye and surrenders. Autumn knows that true strength lies in letting go. If you listen to the gentle, cool breeze of Fall, you’ll hear it whisper to you, “Let go, let go, let go.”  The colors of Fall are Nature’s bold expression. Have no fear; there is beauty in the dying.

There is a brilliant piece of writing I have read every Fall since it was published in the Boston Globe in the Fall of 2003. I transcribed it in its entirety below, my emphasis added. Enjoy!

The trees tell you
James Carroll; Boston Globe, Sept. 30, 2003

 The trees tell you what you need to know. It is not the color that draws your gaze, the burnished gold, the red-the leaves in all their glory. What snags your eyes, rather, is the sure sign of what that glory costs.
            From the spectacular transformations of microscopic chemical reactions within each autumn leaf to the stunning vistas of the distant hills that autumn leaves create, you know very well that this annual high point enshrines the instant of decline. Not for nothing do they call it fall. Autumn points beyond itself to a season of introspection. Nature makes the un-souled world so beautiful just now to conscript the notice of the soul. For once, you are quiet, as your eyes call upon your ears. Looking becomes a way of listening for what the trees are saying. You hear more than the wind. And you see more than is before your eyes.
            When you were young, no one bothered to explain how experience accumulates into knowledge. You could not imagine then how the razor edge of seasonal mortality softens. So you took in each year’s poignant turn as if for the first time-and the last. Autumn was an intimation of all that would never come to be. For one so young, you had no right to the air of gravity you wore like a dandy’s cloak. Now the memories of autumn blur together-the long-gone aroma of burning leaves; the brisk dash-halt-turn of your tight-end buttonhook; the first bite of apple; the sweet bitterness of cider; the chill weather from the north, always a surprise; not to mention how baseball can come to seem all-important. Young Werther melancholy as the season’s note gave way, when you grew older, to a steadying acceptance. The sadness in time remained, perhaps, but coexisted with calm gratitude. The actuality of what had been began to weigh more than the lightness of dreams. Gravity reversed itself.
            Last week a dear friend of yours died, which no doubt set you to this brooding. The news took your breath away, and you thought for a moment it was gone forever-with him. He was the funniest person you ever knew, but where was laughter now? When you found your breath once more, however, you knew that you would laugh again. Sure enough, at the thought of his last wisecrack, you did.
            Your friend has crossed over into who knows what? At the very least, into the living memory of the legion who loved him, including you. Memory, therefore, begins to seem the very center of hope, consciousness itself. This is why infancy lasts long enough for memory to establish itself, and why senility, with luck, is short enough to bid memory farewell. To be a human being is to remember. Memory is how loss is borne, if not recovered from; how confusion gives way to wisdom; how the past reveals itself as relative, leaving the future as the only absolute. Transcendent memory, in which death is never final, is known to some as afterlife.
            Which brings me back to autumn. How many leaves must fall from the trees for you to get the message? Human life is a snap of the fingers, a flash of green-into-gold, a handful of rotations of the earth, even fewer revolutions around the sun. And that’s it. But human life is equally the refusal to be reduced to the mere cycle of nature. As the leaves return to humus, human beings insist on something more. The ancient intuition is that autumnal longing does not go unrequited. The grateful acceptance to which life has brought you involves an accumulation of losses which still do not defeat that longing. Over time-through time-desire itself, more than accomplishment, has come to define your hope. That you still feel the poignancy of leaves falling marks you as a creature of the eternal return, imprisoned by the year’s cycle. But that your feeling is itself infinitely oceanic marks you also as one who fully expects the things that has never happened yet. What you long for is the fifth season.
            A life of many autumns has made you a connoisseur of time. As much as that heightens your respect for the lessons of what went before and your tilt toward what is coming, it makes you rather desperate to grasp the here and now.
            The present, if you live it, is the absolute and the afterlife both. The fifth season is come. Thus, the recent loss of one person you loved-his final gift-makes you love those who remain to you all the more. Nostalgia and longing are nothing compared to wonder and gratitude before what-and who-there is. And that includes, yes, the turning leaves. The trees tell you what you need to know.

Seasons

The Self cannot be pierced by weapons or burned by fire; water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it. The Self cannot be pierced or burned, made wet or dry. It is everlasting and infinite, standing on the motionless foundations of eternity. The Self is unmanifested, beyond all thought, beyond all change. Knowing this, you should not grieve. (Bhagavad Gita Ch.2:23-25)



One summer day, while hiking through the woods, I stumbled upon a field. I kicked off my shoes to glide through the open space, the green grass slide in between the toes of my naked feet. The sun kissed my shoulders and the tops of my cheeks. I smiled gratefully in its direction, giving thanks for the pleasure of its warm glow.

Suddenly the wind swept in and with it a swarm of locusts. They ripped and tore my sun kissed flesh. Piece by piece they took my body until their was nothing left of the whole. The pieces scattered by the wind while animals buried my bones under the roots of nearby trees.

Yet I was not gone. I stayed above the field, hovering over for how much time I cannot say. I watched on as autumn appeared. The leaves dancing off the trees as the field turned to brown. Winter came with its beautiful silence and the field turned white. The sweet smell of spring came and the field turned purple. Wild flowers shooting up to reveal their dormant glory. Then back again to summer, the sun shining down on the same green field where my body was taken.

I watched a deer wander into the field. The wind swept in and the locusts were back. Just as my body had been scattered about the field so it was with the deer. I watched on again as the field turned, brown to white to purple to green.

Once again in summertime the locusts came and took a lion. And just as it happened with me and the deer, the lion was scattered about the field. And the field changed. Brown, white, purple, green.

I noticed of course, the cycle. The field was changing in every second but only to wrap back around itself, to return to the green of summer. My body was taken by the field. I was in the field and the field was in me. There was no part of us that was separate. We existed together. One for the other, as with the deer and the lion.

And while my body was gone, flesh and bones becoming soil, I was not gone. Life then it seems is not a line, but a circle, wrapping back around itself. Moving from one form to another, never ceasing.