After

Feels like new and powerful

Like a tree without the knots

Like life without suffering

Like a horse drinking from a clear water stream

I felt the clarity move through me

And I had no fear.

IN the distance a hawk would cry

And I would understand what it meant to be free.

Where do I go from here?

This old death and new life

I follow the stream of my ancestors

Feeling the two of me join together

The past with the future–

Together they form the present.

A gift of awareness I saw in the deep

Well of the world and all that was loved

Full in the air between the breeze

And the rush of melted mountain snow

And in that instant I saw the crack of lightening

From deep within that spring

A shadow parting from me

A power settling in beneath

A seething energy.

And in that instant there was no time

No place for me to be

Only the beginning and the end as one

I was in an endless pasture

A ball of fire

A lark

Flying through the nothingness of infinity.

I became whole.

I became me.

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34,000 Feet

We walked ten miles yesterday down not a quite desolate road in Wyoming, the three of us with our backpacks and a camera that was way too fancy around here parts. We got stopped by a police officer, saw a dead cat, and several barking guard dogs of various shades and colors. But we also saw horses that approached us from many meters away (sorry, no apples), dogs that wanted to play more than guard, and the sweet sunset light basking the mountain valley in which we walked.

Mountains are everywhere.

In the ridges and peaks and valleys of tree bark

The slanted angle of a fence

The pebbles of a stream

This is Wyoming country, and it is where I’ve been staying for the past few days. I knew that this journey would be important for me, but I’m trying to wrap my head around the significance of it all. To say that Wyoming is life-changing would not do the experience justice, to say that it is life-shifting may come closer. Even before the moment in which I landed, the Grand Tetons greeted me with their indifferent yet majestic peaks–the entire 32-seater airplane in which we flew awakening with sudden gasps of delight at the extreme elevation on the right window side. A nice red-headed girl took some pictures for me on my phone; this started a chain reaction where the left sided passengers were suddenly asking the right sided passengers to help them capture a memory that they admittedly did not witness for themselves.

And then there was the landing; the elk antler statue, the look of the mountains through the windows of an otherwise barren airport that did not feel the need for frills. The only added touch of modernity may have very well been the Uber/Lyft ride signs at the two lane pickup in front of the airport, which reminded me more of the pickup lanes at my elementary school than anything for jet passengers. There was Sam, too, in all her smiling love–and the silence in which we embraced each other, like old friends. Very, very old friends.

As we went through the mountain pass, my black pen exploded all over my journal; leading to a split second of dismay but also a flash of insight that I had not thought of before. That ink blot which tarnished my otherwise pristine travel journal (though already filled with some scratched out poems in the ride to Dulles) caused something else to spill in my brain. So suddenly I was bubbling with creativity; suddenly the black smear became the snow on the mountains; my pen now more like a paintbrush in which I could see the world. Jiggling my pen this way and that, I drew the mountains that I had already come to love.

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I belong with the mountains.

There was Christian too. We embraced like old friends though we had only met each other in that moment; silence was the rule for the first day of the retreat and so we had only our eyes to accept each other. I thought back to my childhood and when I couldn’t understand the words being spoken, and all of a sudden I was yet a small child in a strange but familiar world.

I walked through the snow that day, in bare feet. To say it was cold and frightening would be an understatement.

We ate. Broke bread, except not bread, because we were supposed to be eating differently at our time here. So it was spaghetti squash, made with a certain amount of uncertainty and love. I debated (silently?) in my head whether I wanted to give Christian a gift–a sketch of him, meditating with agitation, after his healing session with Sam out in the woods.

I decided to wait.

At some point Sam gestured to me that the top room was mine, or maybe it was in a note, I cannot remember. I did remember the note that fell out of the book she had left on the passenger side of the seat. A gift that I didn’t know was a gift at the time. And a note written on it rules that I probably could have considered a decade earlier in my life:

No alarm clocks

Sleep when I get tired

Leave when I want to leave

Say stuff when I want to say it or stay silent if I want that

Technology only at a designated time, preferably before dark

A rough paraphrase but good enough; certainly different from the lifestyle that I have led for a long time. Not understanding breaks and self-care is something that everyone talks about and I am no exception to the rule that things can get out of control if I don’t pay attention to my body.

I don’t remember much of day two, except the most aesthetically pleasing whiskey and salad dressing store I’ve ever seen in my entire life (because it is probably the only whiskey store I’ve seen in my entire life).

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Not sure if #FlatJean is supposed to be decidedly irreverent in this way…
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But I’m gonna put #FlatJean in expensive whiskey

Animal glass figurines decidedly more vibrant than the taxidermy animals in the same shop.

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And a butcher shop that I wished was across the street from me back home.

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I’ve been introduced to epsom bath salts, coconut oil with cupping, dry brushing, and simply a good ol’ bodywork stuff. Nothing far off but still unfamiliar to me in a world that rewards grinding, both of your bones and muscles and joints but also your mind.

I’ve been letting Sam get her hands on me a lot more; working out the various energies in my body that I can’t quite comprehend. It’s like my body understands itself better than I can understand it, even though I’m living within the body.

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Samantha Faulhaber 

Somewhere along the line something opened up inside of me, though I’m not sure I like what I found inside. Perhaps I’m not giving myself enough credit like I always tend to do (and ironically, I am doing right now with these words). It’s surprising and gratifying to know that there are hidden gifts inside of me (and inside of everyone?!?) that I did not know before.

Like when the bartender (transported from Maine) said “holy s**t” when I gave him a sketch of the bar that we sat and had wings at.

Like when the horses decided that I was friendly.

Like when I recognized a special moment that Christian was having, sketched it, so now he has that image for life.

Like when I found out purple, my favorite color, stood for intuition.

Like when I faced an invasion of privacy from that police officer and did not crumble with fear.

Like when I admitted I was f**king scared.

There have been so many wonderful moments. Small moments that I cannot comprehend, like only seeing a small piece of a constellation in the sky. I am ready to do more growing and loving in the few days ahead, and I am excited to see what is to come.

Cruising Altitude: A Poem

Cruising Altitude: Thirty-Four Thousand Feet

We sit, our seatbelts buckled

In two neat rows

And as two lovers hold hands across the aisle

I sit as a witness of their holy matrimony.

They were preparing to rise from the earth

Together.

And in that moment, I saw life in their hands.

Fingers forming a raft in the narrow strait between waves of people

Flesh touching in the quiet alley of a sleepy but sad romantic road

The kind covered in cobblestones that would stumble your feet.

And the caress of fingertips in the empty aisle of an organic hipster store–

A quiet respite from the throngs of hungry and prying eyes.

I saw their soul clasped together

In moments where the darkness fell

Into the hallowed earth and birthed a constellation of galaxies

Stretching far, far into the abyss above.

And at cruising altitude, they finally let go

Two hearts sitting next to each other

Content and safe in the knowledge

Of being up in the air.

 

 

Reflection

Goodbye, hello

Hello, goodbye

These are the things that I do not know

I write to speak and I speak to write

These are the spirits that make me chill

When the night fails, so does your will

I use my eyes for more than sight

These are the things that make me grow.

Hello, goodbye

Goodbye, hello

 

Arrival

Here’s a poem I wrote back when I was only sending newsletters. I started sending out newsletters but then started writing poetry. I’m not sure how it happened, but here we are. I hope I remember to dig out all of these.

When a person departs

They set a time

For them to arrive

At the start of something new.

They say when someone dies

A clock stops.

I used to go around changing

The clocks

To give them more time.

But their dying moment would still arrive

Marked by a chime.

Listen.

Listen to what their life has wrought

In the peace that you have sought

Was their life all for naught

Or was there victory in how they fought?

You will find that time will tell

And ring the heart of another bell

You will find yourself not in hell

But in the heaven of the well.

I hate the words “I’m sorry for your loss.” Apologize not for a life that is well lived. Celebrate it. Even if their final moments were filled with pain, that could be something that you don’t know as the truth. It could be that in their final moments they were happy with all that they’ve done. I don’t know.

I want to let you know that everything is going to be ok. That even if you’ve lost a dear friend, it will be ok. When I was in the pit of darkness and I couldn’t get out, there was still a voice that told me that I could. And when I lifted by eyes upwards I saw the hearts of people above me, surrounding me, and lifting me up towards the sky.

I knew then that it was not about the time that they had spent on the earth, but it was about the impact that they had. Oh, yes, that is what I learned. That death is a journey we must all take, that we must sometimes lose others too soon. That we are fragile and helpless at the same time we are strong and powerful. That we don’t have control but we have choice. That we can do anything if we wanted to.

That we will always miss them forever.

I want to let you know that I feel your pain, your sadness, your loss. I feel it in the way that it strikes deep in my heart because we are all connected in the way that we love. That I cannot understand the same thing, but that I can feel the same thing.

I’m not sorry for your loss. I’m too much of an optimist to say it. I want you to look at the life you’ve created for yourself and the life that you have lived. You are living their life even if they are no longer living. You have created a community around you that itself has its own life, unified by a common purpose to bring joy to the world.

So do not be sorry. I want you to be sad and confused, maybe even a little hopeful. But do not be sorry.

When an Olympic athlete went down in the first minute of the race, when he was trampled in the head, when a pole went through his race number and he broke one of his own, he was not sorry. He got up and continued the race. As he started up again someone ran by him and gave him a new pole. He went from last place to first place, which means he went on to earn gold.

There is victory in your loss. Don’t forget it.

 

Photo by Johannes Plenio