Saturday, March 29, 2008

Leaving L.A.

I've convinced my Dad, who will soon be celebrating his 76th birthday, to join me for a few days on the Longest Walk. Today we are driving out to Flagstaff, Arizona, where we will spend the night. Tomorrow we join the walkers.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Response from Denise and Two More Poems

The sudden death of a friend is never easy, but especially challenging if it has been murder or suicide.

Now that I have been through this a few times, I know something about the stages of grief you go through--denial, anger, eventual acceptance, and in the case of suicide--guilt. ("I should have known, I should have been able to do something.")

But I forget that each death brings its own particular grieving. This one hit me on a very physical level, like my body and soul had been slammed by a truck.

But each death or loss also brings its own teaching. I know that the only way to really 'get it' is to go through the grief, to not get stuck in denial. So I have let myself have all my emotions and internal conversations about guilt and anger and pain and loss and even humour.

Then there are the conversations with Denise. Many people have talked and written about "after-death communication". What exactly this is we can't really know, whether it is our own hopes and feelings attached to mere synchonicities, or genuine communication from the beyond. My own belief says probably a combination of the two, since my own belief about the immediate afterlife is that we simply change form.

There is even a form of grief therapy now called "Induced After Death Communcation", where the patient is encouraged to 'get in touch' with their lost loved one.

So in the first few days after I found out about her death, I was hearing a running conversation with her in my mind. Some of it was painful, some of it comforting, some of it was funny. Just like Denise herself. "Death is painful but not as painful as life," she said. And "don't bother me, I'm busy with my family." And: "Lots of good-looking sailors over here."

Maybe it was just me talking to my own memories, maybe not. Guess I won't know til I get to wherever she is.

At one moment when I was in the middle of yet another argument with her inside my head, I said, "Okay fine, if you are really
are still out there somewhere communicating with me, prove it. send me another email...Ha, I bet you can't do that, can you? I don't mean some kind of internal dialogue thing, I mean a REAL message."

And then I sat back, smugly with my arms folded, waiting for what I knew was impossible to happen. In a few moments, I'll check my email and see if she really did send something, ha ha, which of course I knew she can't, then we'll be done with this After Death Communication hallucination once and for all.

These are the strange mental Grand Canyons grief sends you into.

At that very moment a hummingbird flew up to my window, and hovered the way hummingbirds do, their wings moving rapidly keeping them in one place. It stayed long enough to stare for a few long seconds directly into my eyes. Then it disappeared, rapidly, the way hummingbirds do.

And I felt the fluttering of these wings deep inside me, lifting me and making me laugh.

Thank you, I said.

Some messages don't end up in your computer, but in your heart, where they belong.

And we don't really know who sends them, do we?


Two more poems, send by Denise last year:

Poem: "Goldfinches" by Mary Oliver from Owls and
> Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays. © Beacon Press.
> Goldfinches
> Some goldfinches were having a melodious argument
> at the edge of a puddle. The birds wanted to bathe,
> or
> perhaps just to dip their heads and look at
> themselves,
> and they were having trouble with who should be
> first, and so on. So they discussed it while I stood
> in
> the distance, listening. Perhaps in Tibet, in the
> old
> holy places, they also have such fragile bells. Or
> are
> these birds really just that, bells come to us—come
> to
> this road in America—let us bow our heads and
> remember now how we used to do it, say a prayer.
> Meanwhile the birds bathe and splash and have a
> good time. Then they fly off, their dark wings open—
> ing from their bright, yellow bodies; their tiny
> feet,
> all washed, clasping the air.

> Poem: "Trust" by Thomas R. Smith, from Waking before
> Dawn. © Red Dragonfly Press. Reprinted with
> permission.
> Trust
> It's like so many other things in life
> to which you must say no or yes.
> So you take your car to the new mechanic.
> Sometimes the best thing to do is trust.
> The package left with the disreputable-looking
> clerk, the check gulped by the night deposit,
> the envelope passed by dozens of strangers—
> all show up at their intended destinations.
> The theft that could have happened doesn't.
> Wind finally gets where it was going
> through the snowy trees, and the river, even
> when frozen, arrives at the right place.
> And sometimes you sense how faithfully your life
> is delivered, even though you can't read the

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Earth to Denise

Earth to Denise:

I am sorry that you had to leave so soon.

I am sorry that beauty of who you were to all of us was not enough to convince you to stick around.

I have 61 emails that still remain in the 'sent' file of my email--my responses to emails that you sent, with your originals.

You frequently started your emails to me with "Earth to Lisa" because I was always flying around the world.

Like our long conversations on the phone, or our conversations over drinks at Vesuvio in North Beach, the emails held the things that were important to us and passed them back and forth--the freedom and challenge of becoming 'older women', making a living, men, rants about the state of the world and about the difficulty of finding hairstyles that worked,kindness, love, old North Beach poets, and being a white woman and a black woman in today's America. And poetry. Lots of poetry.

Thank you for holding the things that mattered in our all of our conversations. Thank you for all the hope and inspiration, the wise and kind words you were able to give to others but not yourself. And thank you, most of all--for the ability we shared to laugh our way out of well, almost anything.

I knew we were good friends because we could get really angry with each other and laugh about it later.

And yeah,I let myself have one last argument you when I found out about this. Yelling at you from inside my car driving through the Berkeley streets, a shout from this painful messed up and exquisite earth that keeps us here and teaches us over and over again about letting go until finally just maybe we get it (or not) and then it is our own turn to go...

Like most of us here on planet earth, I am selfish. I wanted you to stick around for
awhile. I wanted us to learn how to be old ladies together, still laughing about 'going out to North Beach and picking up sailors." I wanted
more poems, more evenings at Vesuvio, more delectable meals in which
you complain, again, about how much you love to eat.

But it was not to be. So fly, little bird. Fly home.

I will miss you.


sent June,2007:

> I must be getting really old because I am sitting
> around in the middle of the day with so many
> important chores left undone while I amuse myself
> with these lovely little corny poems.
> And I thought I would share ...
> Denise
> p.s. ...this one must be read out loud, and don't
> worry about people thinking that you're crazy,
> because it's a well established fact by this point
> :- )
> Poem: "Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister
> Pond" by Mary Oliver from Owls and Other Fantasies:
> Poems and Essays. © Beacon Press. Reprinted with
> permission.
> As for life
> I'm humbled,
> I'm without words
> sufficient to say
> how it has been hard as flint,
> and soft as a spring pond
> both of these
> and over and over,
> and long pale afternoons besides,
> and so many mysteries
> beautiful as eggs in a nest,
> still unhatched
> though warm and watched over
> by something I have never seen—
> a tree angel, perhaps,
> or a ghost of holiness.
> Every day I walk out into the world
> to be dazzled, then to be reflective.
> It suffices, it is all comfort—
> along with human love,
> dog love, water love, little-serpent love,
> sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds
> flying among the scarlet flowers.
> There is hardly time to think about
> stopping, and lying down at last
> to the long afterlife, to the tenderness
> yet to come, when
> time will brim over the singular pond, and become
> forever,
> and we will pretend to melt away into the leaves.
> As for death,
> I can't wait to be the hummingbird,
> can you?

sent September, 2006

Around the corner I have a friend,
> In this great city that has no end,
> Yet the days go by and weeks rush on,
> And before I know it, a year is gone. And I never
> see my old friends face,
> For life is a swift and terrible race,
> He knows I like him just as well,
> As in the days when I rang his bell.
> And he rang mine but we were younger then,
> And now we are busy, tired men.
> Tired of playing a foolish game,
> Tired of trying to make a name.
> "Tomorrow" I say! "I will call on Jim .
> Just to show that I'm thinking of him."
> But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
> And distance between us grows and grows.
> Around the corner, yet miles away,
> "Here's a telegram sir," "Jim died today .
> And that's what we get and deserve in the end.
> Around the corner, a vanished friend.
> Remember to always say what you mean. If
> you love someone, tell
> them. Don't be afraid to express yourself. Reach out
> and tell someone what
> they mean to you. Because when you decide that it is
> the right time it might
> be too late. Seize the day. Never have regrets.And
> most importantly, stay
> close to your friend s and family, for they have
> helped
> make you the person that you are today !

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sudden Death

I have delayed my trip to join the longest walk for a few more days because of the sudden death of a close friend. I'll be spending some time with family first.

More later.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Next: The Longest Walk Two, Across the U.S.A.

In just a few days I'll be re-joining The Longest Walk Two, which started here in the Bay Area with a sunrise ceremony at Alcatraz, and is now several miles south of here, near Twenty-Nine Palms, California. This Native-led group is walking across the United States in five months, to bring attention to sacred sites, indigenous issues and our treatment of Mother Earth here in the U. S.A. It's called "two", because it commemorates the first Longest Walk in 1978, when the U.S. tried to anull all of the treaties it had with Native nations.

I started out with them three weeks ago in the Bay Area, and walked for three days. Many, many interesting people on the walk, of all ages and ethnicities. June, a 60 year old Buddhist nun, has been doing similar walks for 30 years. For her, it is a practice that, unlike meditation, takes her out into the community. Emmet (His Many Lightings), is a 76 year old runner who started marathon running when he was 40, and hasn't quit since.

As one man on the walk said, "There are a thousand people in your heart you haven't met yet."

I think I'll meet a few of them on this walk.

The Longest Walk Two website is