Category Archives: Beauty

Beauty and Loss All Commingled

Today I spent two hours with my ailing mother instead of the usual four to six.  And as I indulged in the sacredness of time alone, I discovered myself sinking deeper into my “feeling body.”  Once again, I discovered that being too busy is anathema to the soulful existential questions and emotions I need to let bubble to the surface once in a while.

Mom’s health is declining.  It hasn’t been that stellar for quite a few years, but now her body is starting to fail in ways that are no longer remediable.   I found myself wondering how conscious she is of her decline and when is the right time to discuss it all.

My mother has suffered from mood swings and a fair amount of depression these last several years.  Even when she was living in her own home, surrounded by her loving (albeit increasingly demented) husband, excellent and compassionate caregivers, and a regular rotation of visiting children and grandchildren, she frequently found reasons (not always easily discerned by us) to dissolve into tears.  Being in a nursing home the last year and a half has not resolved her feelings of depression.

Fortunately, when I inquired recently of the RN on duty about the possibility of an anti-depressant, it was subsequently approved by the facility physician.  I am not someone who ordinarily believes in indiscriminate pharmaceutical solutions, but her crying jags were disconcerting and I simply wanted her to feel better.  (And Mom was, in no way, open to therapy.)

So the question of the hour is:  do I open the can of worms that end-of-life discussions precipitate?  Or shall I let her “feel good” for a little bit longer?

Unlike Dad, who embraced the idea of heaven and, though he loved life, looked forward to “going home,” Mom has only ever talked about death when she was unhappy with her life.  I find myself hesitating to talk about something that will likely send her back into a downward spiral.

On the other hand, as someone who worked for two different hospices, I know how vitally important it is to have the opportunity to talk about these matters and to work through all the myriad emotions which certainly arise.

And so, I pray for guidance to know when the time is right.

Meanwhile, after leaving the nursing home earlier today and finishing a couple errands, I arrived home and dressed for a walk in the cool October air.   As I ambled down the road, I was struck over and over again by sights so achingly beautiful, I found myself invoking God’s name in whispered awe.

The trees are aflame with color this year—golden yellows, vibrant oranges, corals, and scarlets.  Breathtaking and heart-opening beauty is everywhere.  Even the skeletal remains of Queen Anne’s lace and the dark petal-less heads of black-eyed Susans are beautiful.

In addition to the splendors of autumn, there are lingering roses, hibiscus blooms, and purple clovers—splashes of summer in the midst of dying grasses and fallen leaves.  Life and death are all mixed together in this seasonal transition.

As I walked I found myself feeling the grief of Dad’s absence in my life.  Like me, he loved nature.  We would have had some fine walks together this year had he still been alive.  But I know we are both immersed in beauty and love—he where he is and I where I am.  And Mom, too, though she is not as skilled at recognizing it or appreciating it.  Then again, her childhood was not as special as that of Dad or me and my siblings.  When she was little she was abandoned by those who brought her into the world, and so abandonment is often her default emotional setting (even now, over seventy-five years later.)

Beauty and Pain.  Life and Death.  Love and Loss.  It’s all here.  We are surrounded by it all.

As my wise friend Kristy recently said, “Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.”*

May I carry it all with grace.



Morning Grace

Within the last several months, I’ve settled upon a spiritual practice that feels very good to me. I rise before the sun peeks over the mountain and I take rattle or drum outside with me and I greet the Sun, the Mountains, the Sky, the Earth, the Waters, and everything I can think of in that moment. I give thanks for the trees and the deer and the rocks and the flowers. I give thanks for the rain and the snow and the air and the wind.

After I give multitudinous thanks, my prayers easily shift into blessing. I ask for blessings for my family, my friends, the animals, the plants, my community, the world.

It’s a good way to start the day. I always feel better after I’ve done it. And when I’ve allowed myself to skip this morning ritual because I was especially tired or sad or maybe simply rebellious, I began to notice that my life would start to crumble. Things would not go well. I was out of the flow. I think it’s because I removed myself from this feeling of  gratitude.

So this morning as I was outside singing my prayers and using my rattle, turning slowly in a circle so that my prayers and blessings would go out in every direction, I saw that a deer had stepped from behind a tree and was looking at me. Then one of her sisters did the same. And then another. And then their mother.

Now the deer are especially tame in my community because there is no hunting. And so I often encounter them and they often look my way when they see me. But this felt extra sweet. And it reminded me of the dream I had in which thousands of deer were all looking at me and a hundred or so people, in through the windows, as we met for a workshop.

Perhaps the gaze of the deer is itself a blessing. They do not speak – at least not with words heard by human ears, but they can cast their sweet gaze upon us. I know that whenever I see deer, I smile. I think I am moved by their gentleness – such gentle herbivores, in almost constant contact with this sweet Earth which is our home.

I am grateful for the grace of this natural world. This planet is not always an easy one to live on, but when we take the time to connect with its natural rhythms and its beauty, we are blessed beyond measure. What an amazing Mother we have.