June has been a big month, from my birthday and life celebrations, to deaths and dying. The intimate day-to-day life stuff happening against the backdrop of non-stop news of indictments, coups, wars, underwater disasters, supreme court decisions etc. Hope you all are holding up in your day-to-day life. We are living in interesting times.
Here’s a piece of my Wild Writing that fell out onto the page (with a little editing) that reflects meaningful moments in my life, some large, some small, all sacred and with deep appreciation.
I Adore Sacred Silence
The silence of the redwood giants,
walking or driving through them.
Ever notice the hush that falls?
I think I can hear the butterfly’s wings.
The silence, standing on the canyon rim,
so still, it’s deafening.
Breathing in the blue sky, red rock,
Light and shadow play below.
Nary a whisper of a bird on the wind.
The silence of the desert night sky,
Billions of stars twinkling above.
I swear I can hear their light
showering us in sacred ablution.
The campfire hisses and flutters.
The silence of the rocking sea
as we bob around in a small boat waiting,
waiting, for what might be a whale.
Only the gentle lapping of water on the hull.
A seagull flies by and cries.
The silent, slow turn of the earth
watching the horizon bend
while pelicans slowly glide
along the shoreline in formation,
searching for dinner.
The silence of the outflowing tide
revealing the many creatures
who call the tide pools home.
And then, the faint trickle of rock
sliding down the cliff face.
The silence of the sunset as it travels
through the spectrum of visible color
until it reaches twilight indigo.
Barely breathing, we wait patiently
for the full moon to rise.
The silence of the crisp morning air.
I unzip my tent flap, peeking out
to discover frost crystals glistening on
every blade of grass and rock.
Time to crawl out and make coffee.
The silence of the falling snow
gliding along on backcountry skis,
hot springs and toddies ahead.
Jumping in naked, takes my breath away.
I giggle with delight.
The silence in the cockpit,
circling in the thermals – up, up, up,
gliding over the Front Range,
diving, only to pull up again.
The euphoric freedom of flight.
The silence at Kili’s summit
after an all-night climb up the breach wall.
Breath-taking view, the shadow
of its peak on the clouds below.
Sun at my back. I grin ear-to-ear.
The silence at the end of my journey,
out of my body and back again.
Life’s bucket turned upside down,
soul too big to fit back in.
The unbearable lightness of being.
The silence in the temple,
sangha breathing as one being.
My mantra buoys me.
Somewhere in the background
a wind chime rings.
### ©Rev. LjWinston June 30, 2023
PICTURES – It was a vibrant and vivid visual month, from exploring the murals of the SF Mission District, and the Bouquets to Art exhibit at the DeYoung, to the wonders of nature at Agate Beach and the SF Tea Garden. Click on any image to see in gallery view.
Honoring Life & Living – A Birthday poem
I turn 67 today, and still…
I can’t make peace with my body,
always struggling with my weight,
past surgeries, and potential future one.
It’s really that
I can’t make peace with my mind, isn’t it?
And then, what of karma?
I can write well
I can make beautiful photographs
I can hold space for others and yet,
I cannot shake the feeling of being a fraud.
Even as I mentor new students,
I share that doubt will always and forever creep in.
I can look back – I can look forward
the task at hand is to be in the now.
Who am I in this now moment?
I can see, even feel the wisdom
I’ve accumulated over the years
and am grateful to have a mind that remembers
the labyrinthine path to get here.
Still, there are things
I can’t lay down or take back.
Infidelity, abortion, divorce
the 37 years I’ve lived alone,
mostly by choice…
the pain too great to bear,
of intimacy with another except my closest friends,
those I feel safe with.
Men are not particularly in that mix.
men my age, even at my age.
I was taught young to despise my body,
and still, dammit! It’s a challenge to love it.
I can hike, every day,
grateful for every step taken with no physical pain.
But, there will not be another Kilimanjaro.
I can feel the ground under my feet, the air on my skin,
see the play of light through the trees
hear the birds chirping
watch the young doe scamper up the hillside…
I can be at peace in the sanctity of nature.
It’s been a week of celebration
mostly meals with friends, feeding this hungry ghost…
crab cakes and mussels at the Dead Fish,
spicy Vietnamese noodle bowl in the Haight,
a warm beignet covered in powdered sugar
with runny Cajun spiced eggs benedict.
My adopted Italian mama once told me that
Food is love…
My three best girlfriends
sent me birthday texts today – at 5am.
Texts, a poor substitute for hugs.
I know I’m whole and complete as I am,
And yet, I can smell death dancing in the dark
awaiting this body.
Growing old is hard…
### © Rev. LjWinston June 16, 2023
I also want to acknowledge that I have been greatly inspired by spoken word, activist poet Andrea Gibson, of Boulder CO, who graced us with their presence and wisdom in our Wild Writing community this month. Check out their website for books, videos and merch. I bought a T-shirt that says, “Let Your Heart Break so Your Spirit Doesn’t.” I love this so much. What a great mantra to live by.
Honoring Death & Dying –
June 3rd – beloved spiritual teacher, Gay Luce returned to stardust.
June 7th – family friend and god-brother, Foster Holcomb, left his body.
June 24th – a celebration of life for “Dr. Mac,” who exited this earth plane in January.
June 25th – our monthly East-West Death Café. Normally we host a group of 10-12. That day we hosted one, in a really deep conversation.
Here’s one of my wild writing pieces, written June 4, honoring Gay.
I’m still stumbling through life. And today I fell to my knees at the news that the full moon last night gently pulled the soul of my beloved teacher, Gay, from her body into the arms of the cosmos. Perfect timing. The veil was thin. Her students practicing Tonglen and Phowa. We’ve been waiting and encouraging her lovingly to let go, letting her know we’d all be fine.
Yesterday, I led a celebration of life for a family who’s loved one passed only a few short weeks ago. Getting ready, I changed clothes three times, settling on a purple silk top with pink peonies on it, a top Gay had given me a dozen years ago. I wanted her close, so that I could feel her presence and her guidance. When the day was done, folks I didn’t know hugged me. Thanked me for making space for all of their emotions, for leading a meditation that allowed them to personalize their loss of this loved one and others. I kept hearing in my heart, “it’s not the words you speak that people will remember, it’s how you made them feel.”
Today, I registered for death doula training. Pulled along closer and closer to this work. It seems only natural. A near-death experience. Practicing the Tibetan Buddhist dissolution of the body, chaplaining hospital patients, facilitating death cafés. No longer any resistance to where Spirit is leading me. Guiding the awakening, whether that awakening serves us in this life or in our inevitable death and rebirth. Guide… that is my calling.
Gay, with a name that echoed her child-like giggle, flew to the moon and now her soul watches over the thousands she mothered and midwifed into living life, standing in the mystery, fully naked, and stumbling. The first time I locked eyes with hers, on the steps at Casa de Maria, I knew my life would never be the same.
Yes, I will continue to stumble and fall to my knees with each heart break. And with each fall, my heart cracks open a bit more. The tears rolling down my cheeks are oddly sweet, not stinging, and the waves of grief are so new as to be only a gentle lapping at my shore of loss. But this loss is earthshaking. Gay gave her love with no strings attached, knowing we all would stumble, and somehow, even in her own fragility, she gently lifted us back up.
A light that shined here on earth is now a guiding light in sky.
### ©Rev. LjWinston June 4, 2023
Peace and blessings,
Spiritual Companion/Guide, Healer,
Interfaith Chaplain, Contemplative Photographer
“The earth is full of thresholds where beauty awaits the wonder of our gaze.” John O’Donohue