Sunday, December 23, 2012

Millennium blessing




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There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

It does not come in time,
          but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

It is an insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us to surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

We know we must pass
          beyond knowing
and fear the shedding.

But we are pulled upward
          none-the-less
through forgotten ghosts
          and unexpected angels,
luminous.

And there is nothing left to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.

 

–Steven Levine




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 image via vivre !




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Friday, December 21, 2012

a song with no end




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when Whitman wrote, "I sing the body electric"
I know what he
meant
I know what he
wanted:

to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.

we can't cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take
us

it will have known a victory just as
perfect as
ours.



–Charles Bukowski





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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cold Poem


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Cold now.
Close to the edge. Almost
unbearable. Clouds
bunch up and boil down
from the north of the white bear.
This tree-splitting morning
I dream of his fat tracks,
the lifesaving suet.

I think of summer with its luminous fruit,
blossoms rounding to berries, leaves,
handfuls of grain.

Maybe what cold is, is the time
we measure the love we have always had, secretly,
for our own bones, the hard knife-edged love
for the warm river of the I, beyond all else; maybe

that is what it means the beauty
of the blue shark cruising toward the tumbling seals.

In the season of snow,
in the immeasurable cold,
we grow cruel but honest; we keep
ourselves alive,
if we can, taking one after another
the necessary bodies of others, the many
crushed red flowers.


—Mary Oliver 
from American Primitive




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 via growing orbits 
image via deja vu



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Monday, December 10, 2012




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We all want to do something to mitigate the pain of loss or to turn grief into something
positive, to find a silver lining in the clouds. 


But I believe there is real value in just standing there, being still, being sad.


–John Green



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via vivre !
image via larger loves




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Thursday, December 6, 2012




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Do not mourn the dead: they know what they are doing.


—Clarice Lispector
The Hour of The Star 
trans. Benjamin Moser





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Monday, November 26, 2012


       Dorianne Laux





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 via saturn rising



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Monday, November 19, 2012






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It was when my little brother, who was two and a half years younger than I, died at eighteen months. My mother some days later found his footprints in the yard and tried to build something over it to keep the wind from blowing it away. That’s the most powerful image I’ve ever known.


—A. R. Ammons



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via datura


 

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Blessing the Boats (at St. Mary's)





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may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it
will love your back

may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that


–Lucille Clifton


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Monday, November 12, 2012

A Room




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A room does not turn its back on grief.
Anger does not excite it.
Before desire, it neither responds
nor draws back in fear.

Without changing expression,
it takes
and gives back;
not a tuft in the mattress alters.

Windowsills evenly welcome
both heat and cold.
Radiators speak or fall silent as they must.
Doors are not equivocal,
floorboards do not hesitate or startle.
Impatience does not stir the curtains,
a bed is neither irritable nor rapacious.

Whatever disquiet we sense in a room
we have brought there.
And so I instruct my ribs each morning,
pointing to hinge and plaster and wood -
You are matter, as they are.
See how perfectly it can be done.
Hold, one day more, what is asked.


–Jane Hirshfield




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image via datura
 
 
 
 
 
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Le Chants des Morts - The Song of the Dead


artspotting:

Pablo Picasso,  Le chant des morts (The Song of the Dead), was on display, and it consists of forty-three poems by Pierre Reverdy. via Jessica Svendsen
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Printed in one volume, size 42 x 32 cm
Manuscript of Pierre Reverdy, with Pablo Picasso
123 original lithographs, printed in red

Published on ‘vélin d’ Arches’ paper:
  • 250 copies, numbered 1-250
  • 20 copies, off the market, numbered I-XX
 
Pierre Reverdy, one of the most important modern poets of France, and the Spaniard Pablo Picasso, the most versatile, innovative and productive artist of the 20th century, worked together and produced this excellent book. 
Reverdy filled the pages of the book with his calligraphic handwritten poems (The Song of the Dead, 1946) expressing his personal intellectual doubts and feelings. Then, Picasso applied the strokes of his vibrant red-coloured brush, full of expressive motion, to these beautiful and luxuriant pages. 
The result is a harmonic unity, which is created by the drawing that surrounds and passes through the text. Even so, it does not overpower, but supports it. In this way, a perfect amalgamation of text and image is achieved. The book appears to be a kind of improvised dialogue; something like a friendly chat between a poet and a painter. 
Pablo Picasso was troubled for a long time about the way in which he would artistically express the poems of Reverdy. At the beginning, he drew some ‘traditional’ illustrations. However, he soon felt the need to match, somehow, the writing of the poet and its sculpting qualities with a relative, accompanying support.
Considering the impact of reality, he frees and exposes it to every useless and meaningless idea; then, by using the process of elimination, he brings it back to its meaningful elements. He does not simply try to harmonise his drawings to the text of the book.
In reality, he radically renews the relationship between the writings and the painting; he enriches it, giving it a new personal meaning.
 


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via datura 





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Sunday, November 4, 2012



In this undated image made available by the University of Cambridge in England early Friday March 16, 2012,  shows a cross.  Archaeologists excavating near Cambridge have stumbled upon a rare and mysterious find,  the skeleton of a 7th-Century teenager buried in an ornamental bed along with a gold-and-garnet cross, an iron knife and a purse of glass beads.  There is very little known about this funerary practice, which one archaeologist, Alison Dickens, said would open a window of knowledge into the transitional period when the pagan Anglo-Saxons were gradually adopting Christianity. (AP Photo/University of Cambridge)


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 LONDON (AP) — Archaeologists excavating near Cambridge have stumbled upon a rare and mysterious find: The skeleton of a 7th-century teenager buried in an ornamental bed along with a gold-and-garnet cross, an iron knife and a purse full of glass beads.
Experts say the grave is an example of an unusual Anglo-Saxon funerary practice of which very little is known. Just over a dozen of these "bed burials" have been found in Britain, and it's one of only two in which a pectoral cross — meant to be worn over the chest — has been discovered.

One archaeologist said the burial opened a window into the transitional period when the pagan Anglo-Saxons were gradually adopting Christianity.

"We are right at the brink of the coming of Christianity back to England," said Alison Dickens, the manager of Cambridge University's Archaeological Unit. "What we have here is a very early adopter."
The grave, dated between 650 and 680 A.D., was discovered about a year ago in a corner of Trumpington Meadows, a rural area just outside Cambridge that is slated for development.
Dickens said the teen's grave was interesting because it had a mix of traditional grave goods — the knife, as well as a chain thought to hold a purse full of beads — along with a powerful symbol of Christian devotion.
The grave, she said, indicated "the beginning of the end of one belief system, and the beginning of another."
 The teenager's jewelry — a solid gold cross about 3 1/2 centimeters (1 1/2 inches) wide, set with cut garnets — marks her out as a member of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy. She was about 15, but her skeleton hasn't yet been subjected to radiocarbon dating or isotopic analysis. Those techniques might help experts determine where and under what circumstances she grew up.
Howard Williams, a professor of archaeology at the University of Chester who is not connected to the discovery, said bed burials were very rare. He noted that they were an irregular feature of wealthy female graves in England and mainland Europe, suggesting that Anglo-Saxons may have looked across the Channel for inspiration.
"It's part of a broader pan-European elite identity in life and in death," he said.

Three sets of Anglo-Saxon remains were also found nearby, but it's not clear to what degree any of the people buried there were related. As for the bed itself, there's little left of it other than its iron fittings.
The rationale behind bed burials remains a matter of speculation.
"The word in Old English for 'bed' and 'grave' is the same because it's 'the place where you lie,'" Dickens said. "It is interesting that you have that association. You're lying there — but just for a much longer time, I suppose."


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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Down (excerpt)



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You want to wash yourself
in earth, in rocks and grass

What are you supposed to do

with all this loss? 

 

 –Margaret Atwood



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via wait - what?
image via vivre !





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Wednesday, October 31, 2012



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via datura




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Thursday, October 25, 2012




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I do not fear death.

I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born,
and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.


–Mark Twain




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image via love is infinite




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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Gashlycrumb Tinies



–Edward Gorey
1963






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Friday, October 12, 2012




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Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. 

The secret of life is to die before you die - and find that there is no death.


–Eckhart Tolle



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image via vivre !



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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October



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The leaves fall from my fingers
Cornflowers scattered across the field like stars,
                                                                         like smoke stars,
By the train tracks, the leaves in a drift
Under the slow clouds
                                 and the nine steps to heaven,
The light falling in great sheets through the trees,
Sheets almost tangible.
The transfiguration will start like this, I think,
                                                                     breathless,
Quick blade through the trees,
Something with red colors falling away from my hands,
The air beginning to go cold …
                                                  And when it does
I’ll rise from this tired body, a blood-knot of light,
Ready to take the darkness in.
—Or for the wind to come
And carry me, bone by bone, through the sky,
Its wafer a burn on my tongue,
                                              its wine deep forgetfulness.


—Charles Wright
 from The Southern Cross



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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

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Monday, May 7, 2012


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Saturday, May 5, 2012









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They were not holding hands, but their shadows were.


–Toni Morrison 
Beloved








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Friday, May 4, 2012



Death With Dignity: How Doctors Die

May/June 2012
http://www.utne.com/mind-body/death-with-dignity-zm0z12mjzros.aspx By Ken Murray, from “Zócalo Public Square”





Doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us.
 
Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. He had a surgeon explore the area, and the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. This surgeon was one of the best in the country. He had even invented a new procedure that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds—from 5 percent to 15 percent—albeit with a poor quality of life. Charlie was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice, and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with family and feeling as good as possible. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment.

It’s not a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. But they go gently.

Of course, doctors don’t want to die. But they know enough about modern medicine to know its limits. And they know enough about death to know what all people fear most: dying in pain, and dying alone. They’ve talked about this with their families. They want to be sure, when the time comes, that no heroic measures will be taken—that they will never experience, during their last moments on earth, someone breaking their ribs in an attempt to resuscitate them with CPR (that’s what happens if CPR is done right).

Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call “futile care” being performed on people near the end of life. The patient will get cut open, perforated with tubes, hooked up to machines, and assaulted with drugs. All of this occurs in the intensive care unit at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a day. What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist. I cannot count the number of times fellow physicians have told me, “Promise me if you find me like this that you’ll kill me.” They mean it. Some medical personnel wear medallions stamped “No Code” to tell physicians not to perform CPR on them. I have even seen it as a tattoo.

To administer medical care that makes people suffer is anguishing. Physicians are trained to gather information without revealing their own feelings, but in private, among fellow doctors, they’ll ask, “How can anyone do that to their family members?” I suspect it’s one reason physicians have higher rates of alcohol abuse and depression than professionals in most other fields. I know it’s one reason I stopped participating in hospital care for the last 10 years of my practice.

Medical Overtreatment: A Broken System

How has it come to this—that doctors administer so much care that they wouldn’t want for themselves? The simple, or not-so-simple, answer is this: patients, doctors, and the system.
To see how patients play a role, imagine a scenario in which someone has lost consciousness and been admitted to an emergency room. As is so often the case, no one has made a plan for this situation, and scared family members find themselves caught up in a maze of choices. When doctors ask if they want “everything” done, they answer yes, often meaning “do everything that’s reasonable.” The problem is that they may not know what’s reasonable. For their part, doctors who are told to do “everything” will do it, whether it is reasonable or not.

This scenario is a common one. Feeding into the problem are unrealistic expectations of what doctors can accomplish. Many people think of CPR as a reliable lifesaver when, in fact, the results are usually poor. If a patient suffers from severe illness, old age, or a terminal disease, the odds of a good outcome from CPR are infinitesimal, while the odds of suffering are overwhelming. Poor knowledge and misguided expectations lead to a lot of bad decisions.

But of course it’s not just patients making these things happen. Doctors play an enabling role, too. The trouble is that even doctors who hate to administer futile care must find a way to address the wishes of patients and families. Imagine, once again, the emergency room with those grieving family members. They do not know the doctor. Establishing trust under such circumstances is a very delicate thing. People are prepared to think the doctor is acting out of base motives, trying to save time, or money, or effort, especially if the doctor is advising against further treatment.
In many ways, doctors and patients are simply victims of a larger system that encourages excessive treatment. In some unfortunate cases, doctors use the fee-for-service model to do everything they can, no matter how pointless, to make money. More commonly, though, doctors fear litigation and do whatever they’re asked, with little feedback, to avoid getting in trouble.

Even when the right preparations have been made, the system can still swallow people up. One of my patients was a man named Jack, a 78-year-old who had been ill for years and undergone about 15 major surgical procedures. He explained to me that he never, under any circumstances, wanted to be placed on life support machines again. One Saturday, however, Jack suffered a massive stroke and got admitted to the emergency room unconscious, without his wife. Doctors did everything possible to resuscitate him and put him on life support in the ICU. This was Jack’s worst nightmare. When I arrived at the hospital and took over Jack’s care, I spoke to his wife and to hospital staff about his care preferences. Then I turned off the life support machines and sat with him. He died two hours later.

Although he had thoroughly documented his wishes, Jack hadn’t died as he’d hoped. The system had intervened. One of the nurses, I later found out, even reported my actions as a possible homicide. Nothing came of it, of course; Jack’s wishes had been spelled out explicitly, and he’d left the paperwork to prove it. But the prospect of a police investigation is terrifying for any physician. I could far more easily have left Jack on life support, prolonging his life, and his suffering, a few more weeks. I would even have made a little more money, and Medicare would have ended up with an additional $500,000 bill. It’s no wonder many doctors err on the side of overtreatment.

But doctors still don’t overtreat themselves. Almost anyone can find a way to die in peace at home, and pain can be managed better than ever. Hospice care, which focuses on providing terminally ill patients with comfort and dignity, provides most people with much better final days. Amazingly, studies have found that people placed in hospice care often live longer than people seeking active cures.

Death With Dignity

Several years ago, my older cousin Torch (born at home by the light of a flashlight, or torch) had a seizure that turned out to be the result of lung cancer that had gone to his brain. I arranged for him to see various specialists, and we learned that with aggressive treatment, including three to five chemo-therapy sessions a week, he would live perhaps four months. Ultimately, Torch decided against any treatment and simply took pills for brain swelling. He moved in with me.

We spent the next eight months doing a bunch of things that he enjoyed, having fun together like we hadn’t in decades. We went to Disneyland, his first time. We’d hang out at home. Torch was a sports nut, and he was very happy to watch games and eat my cooking. He even gained a bit of weight, eating his favorite foods rather than hospital meals. He had no serious pain, and he remained high-spirited. One day, he didn’t wake up. He spent the next three days in a comalike sleep and then died. The cost of his medical care for those eight months, for the one drug he was taking, was about $20.

Torch was no doctor, but he knew he wanted a life of quality, not just quantity. Don’t most of us? If there is a state of the art of end-of-life care, it is this: death with dignity. As for me, my physician has my choices. They were easy to make, as they are for most physicians. There will be no heroics, and I will go gentle into that good night. Like my mentor Charlie. Like my cousin Torch. Like my fellow doctors.

Ken Murray is clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Southern California. Excerpted from Zócalo Public Square (November 30, 2011), a project of the Center for Social Cohesion.



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

i thank You God for most this amazing day





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i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


–E. E. Cummings




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image: Mary Beth Jarrosak 
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Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Note Left on the Door


 

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There are these: the blue
skirts of the ocean walking in now, almost
to the edge of town,
and a thousand birds, in their incredible wings
which they think nothing of, crying out
that the day is long, the fish are plentiful.


And friends, being as kind as friends can be,
striving to lift the darkness.
Forgive me, Lord of honeysuckle, of trees,
of notebooks, of typewriters, of music,
that there are also these:
the lover, the singer, the poet
asleep in the shadows.



Mary OliverA Note Left on the Door,
Thirst



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via datura



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Wednesday, February 29, 2012




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No permanence is ours,
we are a wave that flows to fit whatever form it finds.


~ Hermann Hesse



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