All Partings


When my friend let me know that she was moving to Virginia, I looked away from her email, and remember feeling like a cloud of confetti spinning earth bound, flood lights accentuating the sparkle and separation between each piece.  

I’m not talking about the small paper-punch-cut-out confetti in cascarones but the big rectangular pieces that are used at political conventions or for a hero’s homecoming parade.  The kind of confetti that dances slowly and effortlessly to the ground, and for a minute or two makes the air come alive with movement, temporarily giving shape to what was once invisible.

In my thirties and forties I spent most of my time and effort collecting rectangles of identity to create a tightly pixelated sense of self. Those were the decades that screamed at me to try harder to keep it together and find a center of gravity within that could  hold all the pieces in orbit.

As I move through my fifties, I feel the accumulation of each beginning and end, the arrivals and departures, and all that happens in-between, blow past my edges, making room for more space, like confetti being shot from a cannon.  There is no center of gravity, no solid core to grasp.

I need more space to question and be reverent, to forgive and be forgiven, and try to fall in love with the world again, and again, and again, despite the fact that we will, as the Buddhists remind us, lose everything and everybody in our lives, including ourselves.

In my mind’s eye I see my Virginia-bound friend in my paper and mylar cloud. I breathe in her remarkable capacity to help others and sense of justice. She taught me to care more. Her note ended with the hope that our paths cross again. We all say that to the people who have mattered when we say goodbye, but it often doesn’t happen.

I was listening to a man who studied with Tibetan monks and he told me that his teacher described his life’s practice as the loving preparation for all partings.

The loving preparation for all partings.

Inherent in the statement is loss, but it’s loss turned upside down with the offering of a solution to the sorrow surrounding the impermanence of our time here on earth. If we are mindfully preparing each day to let go of the people and things that we love, then we will, by the nature of the task, be living in the present moment and attending to our lives with kindness and love.

It’s a mantra I use a thousand times a day to quiet my mind’s chatter in order to return to the breath.  Too often I choose to run recklessly, hand in hand, with my petty grievances and feel the constriction of my dense, pinched ego who wants to preserve itself at all costs.  

But there are other moments, also, when I am like a confetti cloud and can simultaneously be the empty space and the twirling rectangles,  feeling the stillness of floating back to earth for a brief and eternal moment.

For Marcia

“You have to remember one life, one death–this one! To enter fully the day, the hour, the moment whether it appears as life or death, whether we catch it on the in-breath or out-breath, requires only a moment, this moment. And along with it all the mindfulness we can muster, and each stage of our ongoing birth, and the confident joy of our inherent luminosity.”  Stephen Levine, A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last


Shh, Little Monkey

I was up before five this morning for the first time since school let out for holiday break a couple weeks ago. I packed our things for our day trip to Houston. I felt judgement’s pull. The chattering monkey mind was swinging from rope to rope inviting me up into the corner of its cage.

Shh … little monkey, not today.

The rural landscapes along Highway 71, toward Bastrop and Smithville, were made opalescent by the early sun and the smoky clouds of drifting mist rising from the rivers and cattle ponds.

Shh, little monkey.  Can’t you see what I see?

Baby twin cousins.  Grandparents.  Aunts and uncles. Cousins grown into teens. Play and laughter. Meals and hugs.

Shh, little monkey.  Don’t you feel what I feel?

I steer our way home in a dark tunnel of happy solitude, a gift from my passengers’ slumber and a day well lived.

Shh, little monkey.  Go to sleep.