A Northman's Reveries

A Northman's Reveries

August 22, 2018

I received your email, and for the past two days
I've been trying to think what to say.
Words fail me--As you can well appreciate,
an uncomfortable state of affairs for a writer.

Yes, I will miss you.
Yes, I am sad at the prospect of your death.
Yes, I am grateful for our friendship 
and how it has enriched my life (and my writing)
over these many years.

But the words sound so trite when I put them down on paper,
so inadequate to the occasion, the anticipated loss of
a valued friend.

And then this morning, I was out walking on my hillside,
and I noticed the first signs of summer sliding into autumn:
One of the sugar maples is just beginning to turn,
signaling the changing of the seasons.

And once again I found in nature that peace
that stills the mind and fills the heart.
If I could, I would send you that peace.
As it is, I can only leave you with my sense
of gratitude for the many moments we have shared,
and a sad gladness that our paths crossed--
several times--on our separate journeys.

Godspeed on yours now. I will eat an orange in your honor
and whisper your name to the wind.

I guess that's what I wanted to say.
Farewell, my friend.

 

 

November 26, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 O Lord,

We're grateful that we can come together as a family,
united in our love in spite of the misguided political views held
by some of our members gathered with us here today.

We hold hands around this table,
putting aside our differences,
confident that Your wisdom
will help them see the error of their ways.

We give thanks for the bounty of this table
and for our nation rich in its blessings,
now threatened by the idiotic policies being proposed
by a certain political party who shall remain nameless
because we have put politics aside on this day of Thanksgiving.
But really, you would not believe the asinine things they're saying about--

What? Oh, sorry, Lord. Margaret reminds me
that I can get a bit carried away in defense of
truth and justice and, heck, just basic common sense.

We ask that You bless this great nation of ours in the year coming
as we must choose between sanity and
the catastrophic alternative offered by the other party.

We pray this in the name of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ,
who we know shares the same values as half of us sitting here at this table.

Amen.

...Margaret, why aren't there any knives on the table?

 

 

 

November 7, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here might lie the origin of all religions:
In such a sunset that takes one's breath away
and pulls us out of ourselves,
intimating that we are part of something far grander
than our tiny, temporary lives,
part of something beyond the mind's intellectual reach.

And our ancestors took it from there,
creating a God or gods or spirits,
to somehow account for this majesty and mystery
that we sense but cannot explain,
yet feel we somehow must.

 

 

 

May 26, 2015

[May 26, 1998]

I would like to ask him what it was like to die that day. Was he aware of it? Did he have any sense or intuition on that bright and beautiful May morning that This Was It? That his life had come to its end?

Or did it take him by surprise?
Or was one part of him taken by surprise, while another part of him knew, perhaps had always known, that it would be this day, this time, this place.

 

By the accounts we received, he went quickly. Just collapsed to the ground. Heart attack. Sudden. And he was gone.

The location was fitting. Up in the lake country he loved. He couldn't have chosen a more fitting place to die. (Did you choose it, Dad?)

There had been a landslide on the cliffs overlooking Lake Merwin, next to the family property, and he wanted to get up there to see it. He was excited that last morning, Mom remembered. He urged her to hurry and get dressed so they could leave. She wanted to put on her make-up.

"Oh, you don't need make-up. You look beautiful to me," he told her. "You've always looked beautiful to me."

It was unusual for him, that kind of compliment, and Mom remembered it. (Was that why you said it? Those words, they were your parting gift to her. They would sustain her for what lay ahead, she who never liked being alone.)

Years later I would use them in my Tokyo novel. The ghost husband says to the old woman in her dreams: "My little wife, you are beautiful to me. You have always been beautiful to me."

As deaths go, it was a good death, immediate and over. Nothing fancy. No struggle. No grasping for one more day, or one more breath. No need.

It was a death worthy of you, Dad. A man who died at peace because that's pretty much the way he lived. Nothing left unfinished or unspoken. You had said what needed to be said, what Mom needed to hear, and then you could leave.

 

 

 

January 27, 2015 

No words can soothe--only time can do that.
And memories that both remind and heal,
and the embrace of family and friends.

But mostly time, I think.

 

 

 

January 1, 2014

I was born just a few hours before the new year of 1948, so from the start, I have loved beginnings.

And yes, yes, I know, such pre-packaging of time is contrived and artificial, based on an imperfect calendar no less (Leap year has always struck me as cheating.)

Yet there is, I think, within our humanity this love of beginnings, for each holds the potential for renewal and reinvention, possibly redemption, and getting it right this time.

The journey that is one's life has many beginnings and many endings--it's not always easy to tell the difference--and if I am granted a conscious dying, then I plan to greet Death with open arms, telling him, "It's okay. I love beginnings."

 

 

 

 

 

October 6, 2013

By the time I came to Lower Columbia CAP in 1999 as the new Community Services Director, I had been engaged in the AIDS epidemic for over 12 years. By then, I had lost more than 30 friends, colleagues and clients to AIDS. I needed a change.

Friends expressed their concern for me, joking that I was moving 40 miles and 50 years north of Portland, into the American “heartland” of small towns and small minds.

But I had already accepted that I would be alone.

It didn’t come up until my second week, when I was meeting each of my 80+ staff individually. She came into my office, an older woman looking rather stern, I thought. We had only just started, when she said abruptly, “I heard you worked with the AIDS people.”

The AIDS people. It was the way she said it, like the Sand people, or the Pod people.

“Yes. Yes, I have,” I said. “For a number of years.”

I braced myself to get an earful of what she thought of “those people.”

Her gaze dropped and her voice fell to a whisper. “My son has AIDS.”

I got up and closed the door, came back and sat down. “Would you like to talk about it?”

And as she told me about the family secret and the family shame and the family silence, and of her own terrible isolation, I realized that I had come into the Heartland.