Give me a moment. I’m considering the Hemlock.

I check into the website Grief Speaks Out everyday, looking for expressions that reflect my own experience since Lenore died. I find reflections there which are informative and helpful and descriptive of some of my own feelings and thoughts. It’s a very useful, thoughtful, compassionate, helpful website – and in some cases I suspect it even saves lives. That being said, there is at least one thing it cannot do. It cannot provide a roadmap for the griever. In the end, every grieving person walks a path that is unique. And it leads to a larger perspective that is equally unique.

The day Lenore died her loss and my grief appeared in a shattering explosion and was nothing like what my previous speculations about what it would be like. It consumed me. That’s what an explosion does. The aftermath was pieces and numbness, of living in a totality involving only grief and loss and mourning. It was inchoate emotional pain and unmanageable mental chaos. My world view blew up, the basic root of my life paradigm vanished, the matrix of my own understanding broke down into senseless chaos. My spirit broke.

As time goes on for me I’ve realized that grief is just one part of my experience. The shattered pieces of my paradigm and my understanding have come back together in a new configuration, informed by new, critical information; Lenore is not here with me in this life. She is in me, she still speaks to me and I to her, I can imagine her presence with me. Yet she is not here anymore. She is somewhere else. My perspective has had to be rearranged to accommodate this new, massive fact.

In moments of reflection I wonder why I have the impulse to share with others what is my uniquely personal experience when everyone has their own in play. Near as I can tell it’s simply because I am human and therefore self-involved. I don’t want to be thought of poorly by others, I want to be understood by others. I would rather not hurt others if possible. If things go the wrong way in these matters, my chances of survival go down.

If I remove my selfishness from the perspective, then why am I writing this at all, and why would I share it? People think what they will of me. I have no power over that. People understand in their own way and their understanding is informed by their personal perspective, and I have no power over that. People can get hurt whether I mean to hurt them or not, that’s up to them and not me, it’s a manifestation of their own unique perspective. I have no power over that.

Yet also because I am human I am more than just an individual – I am also communal. I’m social by human nature, part of a collective. That collective is also selfish because it’s human, but its needs are different. It wants to know what its members have encountered and use that information to survive. So I have an innate desire to inform the collective of any useful information I have acquired which might be useful for that ongoing mutually selfish desire to survive.

Survive! It’s the commandment so universally assumed that even God did not feel compelled to tell Moses to chisel it in stone: “Thou shalt survive.” It’s written in the bio-code that stretches all the way back in history to the first living cell. It’s still, even in the most recently evolved part of the human brain, the primary purpose we put the prefrontal cortex to use for. Survival.

Why is loss and bereavement nearly universally regarded as a thing human beings pass through on their way to more life, to survival? The assumption proves itself true in all but a few cases. Grief, loss, bereavement – it’s something human beings pass through, live with, bear with, suffer with – and survive with. They go on, recover, reorganize, rebuild. It’s assumed. It’s fact. Options need not apply. Start as far away as you want, but when you drill down to the foundation that’s where you’re going to end up. You survive. It’s an unquestionable underlying basic assumption of human existence.

But what if we take the unrecognized, underlying basic assumption in all that and throw it out the window? Declare it crap, and start putting everything back together without assuming that survival is the be-all and end-all fundamental focus upon which all human purpose is based? We  assume that under all circumstances, at all times, the first critical requirement of the individual and the human collective is to survive.

In a place where everything dies.

Even if you’re walking dead, even if your mind tells you it’s time to go, even if your heart is full and your life completed and you have become useless to yourself in the attainment and conclusion of your reason for being, even if everything ahead is dénouement, a slow slide into deterioration and eventual death – still you are required to live because even in that condition your simple presence can still be used by others to fulfill their needs.

The purpose of this thing I’m writing right now, telling it like it is for me, is about describing how survival could not always the best way to go. Survival is an option if you’re consciously aware of it as such. And it could be not the best option in certain circumstances, including mine.

I know, I know, this sounds suspiciously like a long, slow, tedious rationale for suicide, and already the more sensitive and perceptive readers among you, having detected that possibility, are forming up responses from your own perspective if that proves to be the case. A body of information is already in play, gently but firmly opposed to my view of survival as an option, putting harder weapons on alert for self defense in case this proves to be heresy or an attack on the fundament of basic beliefs and instincts. Will I need to be marginalized, explained by my condition and circumstances, my thoughts rationalized until safely reduced to a comfortable perspective?

Or wait. Has that already happened? Upon rereading this I realize I’ve already said what I came here to say, and the reactions by my readers are already in play. I could explicate further, but the essence is there. I could stop right now.

Yet if the explication isn’t as full and developed as I hoped it would be when I set out to write this thing, one thing remains to be said out loud.

Yes, I’m a potential suicide. But a slow one. I am aware of the joy life still offers me, aware of the others I can still serve with my experience and gained wisdoms and simple presence. I’m still aware of how wonderful and magic and full life is. I still laugh, dance, listen to music, think, feel, move, have places to go and things to do, people I love, people who love me and care about me. I still know the unexpected amazing development is just around the corner, waiting to delight and engage me in something new and unforeseeable and wonderful.

The thing is, I don’t hope for any of that any more. I don’t not hope – I just don’t hope for those things anymore. I don’t have a driving desire burning deep inside me to have them. I don’t need them in the sense of filling a void, removing a lack in my life. I’ve had them. I’ve been there, I’ve done all that. It’s been enough. And the context I gained them in, my life with Lenore, is perfect. I have no need of a different one. I’m happy with what I’ve had, and with what I have from it now. I’ve had enough. I’m done.

I’ve come to that place where all truth is only a matter of perspective. It’s all relative, even what we sense about the universe behind the curtain of consciousness. Even the sense we have of the eternal nature of the stars and earth and natural life is a result of interpretation rather than fact. It’s an illusion of vanity, a manifestation of our separated individual identities. It’s all pretty great when we live within it and find our way there, but in the end it is still a limited place to exist within. Exhaust its possibilities, master it, and it becomes superfluous. It becomes time to move on, to explore further, to discover what’s on the other side of the curtain.

I think it would be ok to die today, but I’m not going to get all inspired and enthusiastic and energetic about it. I also think it would be ok to kill myself today – but ditto. All I know right now is that when the time for me to die comes, whether naturally or by suicide, it will be the right time.

It will be the right time. That’s all I want people to remember about my dying. It was time, it was the right time. The rest, hopefully, will be about my living, about the wonderful, beautiful, full, hard, strange, amazing, loving, thoughtful, interesting, fulfilling, completed life I had, and how it all came to fruition and completion in the life Lenore and I shared together.

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The Suicide: An Insider’s View

He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

‘Out, Out—’ by Robert Frost

The first time I read this poem I was fifteen years old and the last two lines impacted me so much I’ve never forgotten them. They were so cold and ruthless and true. I’ve seen it happen all my life and done it myself, survived loss and moved on. In the wake of Lenore’s death and the throes of my bereavement so much has come forward from the past about death and loss. I’m considering everything I know about that.

Grief is indeed unique to the individual and so this is only about my personal experience.

First there was the concussion that hit the day Lenore died, the shock that slowly shattered my heart into pieces as I drove away from the hospice, and the numbness and disbelief even though we’d both seen her death coming. She was reconciled to it and at peace and met it with unbelievable strength and grace, but then that was her, who she was, how she lived.

When I was with her the last time, after her body had been washed and cleaned and arranged by the hospice staff and the stuffed Murphy puppy and my wool shirt were nestled up to her neck, I saw the slight, gentle smile of a Madonna on her face and knew she’d died the way she lived.

I’d had a near-death experience when I was young and had told her about it and in those last days reminded her of it again. I hoped in that final moment with her body that at least in part her peaceful smile was because she had experienced the peace and timelessness and connection and time to decide to go on I had experienced when near death. I came back, I had a choice. She did not, her circumstances were different. I just wanted her dying to be as beautiful and gentle and easy as it could be for her. That was all I ever wanted for her, in life and at the end.

There is no order in my grief. It’s a random, unnumbered hopscotch of days where I land in unspeakable places, fall into deep holes, teeter on the edge of precipices, walk through life with the thousand-yard stare of concussive aftermath. I often meet the daily events of my life in an outwardly unremarkable appearance, having conversation with others, beholding the beauty of nature, eating, cleaning, and taking care of the daily mundane chores of life in a body. Inside it’s a different story. I’m a gutted, hollow hulk, living by habitual rote, more robot than human in my actions – but very, very human in the pain at the core of it all.

Memories come unbidden now; they’re random emotional tics that hit my heart like a spear point. I wrench my mind away from them and go do something that requires my full attention. They return.

My external impartial observer notes daily that I’m living dead. Everywhere I go my face is numb and my mind barely engaged. I don’t smile except when it happens reflexively when I meet and talk with other people. The behaviorally conditioned responses of politeness and cordiality during engagement with another human being bring a smile here, a sympathetic agreeable nod there, all the appropriate requirements of the rite. I am merely an automaton, but a good one. In those moments I am engaged, registering, responding, identifying, sharing. Without joy.

There are people in my life who are worried that I won’t survive Lenore’s loss in my life. They should be. I am.

They know how we lived our life together; know how deeply we were bonded. They suspect at some deep level, either consciously or subconsciously, that perhaps the life we lived together may have abolished any chance I might have for living this life without her. One of them called me just last night and I was so very grateful that she has the insight and sensitivity to know what I’m experiencing; the sad, hard, terrible, beautiful, terminal truth of it.

That’s the place I’m in now. I doubt that there are very many people at all who have grieved and not considered suicide at one time or another in the course of their passage through the pains of loss. The most open and honest confessions of people who have experienced profound bereavement always include a time when they felt like dying and wanted to kill themselves. It’s a consideration, an option. I have to look at it. I have been.

I have to find out where I stand, if nothing else.

I’m not in a condition to act upon my conclusion if it all adds up to suicide. The friend who called me last night reminded my yet again that I am in no condition to make any serious decisions right now, and I know that. At this point I just want to know where I stand. I’m willing to forestall any decision or action regarding suicide until I’m standing on certain ground and know without equivocation or reservation that it’s what I desire more than life.

Writing is part of my process, it helps me sort things out, put them in order and articulate my experience. It’s necessary for me because I process the things I encounter in life at a high level of complexity. I can see and hear Lenore responding to my saying that, raising one eyebrow in my direction with a smile on her face, loving me because I am that way. “Oh, really Bob? Do you think?” I can hear her pleased laugh. It’s who I am. Life gets pretty confusing for me if I don’t do that.

I will add, however, that her heart is in me as well, as my mind was in her. We were/are both intelligent, loving human beings. In my regard we were/are, together, one of the best examples of the potential humanity can reach in the practice of true love.

That’s what this is about. It’s about putting in order my complex confusion about my life now. A lot of this writing goes into my archives because it’s very personal. I’m writing this with the intention of sharing it with others for whatever understanding might be made available to them about this part of their own grieving, if only in a general way.

In particular I hope it might provide some understanding to those people who do love me and might be affected by my suicide if that turns out to be the choice I make. I think it might be easier for them to return to their own affairs if they knew I made a reasoned, solid choice for myself, and why, and know that I was not a victim of a temporary despair or derangement.

What I do want to know is whether or not my life ended when Lenore died or if there is a measure of life without her left to me.

My bereavement has slowly moved from the place where all I can see is her loss to a place where the perspective is larger and broader. Bereavement does that, it leads people to consider not only the life and death of their beloved but their own life and death as well. It does not diminish the loss of the loved one. That will always be there. No matter how broad the perspective, that loss will be at the core of everything in even the broadest of landscapes.

Bereavement is part of the ground in this life. We live, and we die. Many of the bereavements we encounter are brief, glancing encounters, times when we are reminded of the fact of our own death but return quickly to our own affairs. The loss of former acquaintances, former friends lost in time, even the occasional glances we have of obituaries in the newspaper or word of someone’s death in social media give us at least a short pause for thought about death and loss and lives lived and ended.

Some of the losses we have involve significant bereavements. In my case I count the loss of my brother Tony and the deaths of my maternal grandparents among those. They struck hard, their loss lingered in me, and it took time to return to my affairs. I was changed significantly by their loss, yet able to go forward in much the same direction I was going before their deaths.

And then there are the profound losses, the life-changing bereavements that changed my life forever. I’ve had two of those. One of those bereavements took me out beyond the edge of life, into a complexly rooted insanity and a time when I was homeless and mad as a dog, wandering aimlessly on the beach in southern Oregon, eating out of tidal pools, smelling like wood smoke from the fires I slept by at night wrapped in a wool blanket, my only possession.

The roots of that hit were very complex and involved an element of traumatic stress disorder taken on in my childhood as the result of the loss of my father, who I loved and who loved me very much, at the age of seven and then my exposure down through the ensuing years to more death, an exposure to evil and abuse, and many more conditions which wounded me and did not heal for many years.

It was also complex in the fact that no-one had actually died during that bereavement. My first marriage had failed due to my own failings and afflictions. I loved my ex-wife but I was young, tortured, and incapable of embracing the behaviors that are necessary to sustain a marriage, and it ended. We had three children. It wasn’t right and not even necessary, as I realized later, to view the separation from my daughters as bereavement, but in the condition I was in and because of the past that was bursting like an infection from the encysted pains of my early life, I felt like my children had died.

They were gone from me, just like my father was gone from me, and what made that sense of loss so terrible for me was the feeling that while at the same time I grieved them as lost forever, they still remained here in this world. I think the pain of that conflict is what finally, utterly broke me at the time.

I tried to commit suicide twice in that time, serious attempts, and I learned then that it is difficult to do, and can even be denied to you by the grace of God when you have seemingly succeeded. In retrospect I’d have to say the toughest part of committing suicide is the commitment that has to be in place before you can accomplish it. You have to be certain beyond doubt of where you stand.

Somehow I survived even that, the time of my life when I walked through the darkest valley I’d ever been in. I went on, I slowly healed the old and recent wounds, I found myself reconciled to the pains of life and the scars I bore, accepting what had gone before and my own part in it, willing to face more of the same while hoping for better then I had up to that time. I found a spiritual core in me that did indeed consist of faith and hope and love.

And then Lenore and I, seeking one another across the face of this earth for as long as we had been alive, finally found one another. We lived 33 years together and had a life together that was whole and holy and indescribably wonderful and beautiful.

Now she is gone, and I’m here in this landscape, considering what is left, and what is next. Regardless of whatever decision I might make as far as suicide goes and regardless of how fully and wholly reasoned out it is, it needs to be fully recognized that the emotional and, more significantly, spiritual impact of her loss is the largest element in my considerations. It can’t be otherwise.

How can I not contrast my knowledge of knowing what life can be when it achieves the highest level of love with my knowledge of what life is like without it? Even when I consider the unknown future, which always holds a measure of hope simply because what is unknown always has a possibility of hope attached to it, I see no life available to me which would even come close to the life I’ve had. Even if there were one I could clearly see I doubt that I would take it up simply because I’m completely satisfied with what I’ve already had in this life.

And that’s another thing. In addition to the typical manifestations of grief I recognize in my own experience, most of which involve pain, there is something very unusual present. I feel like my life has been fulfilled, and is completed. It’s a feeling that’s not painful at all. It’s a peaceful, quiet recognition that I’ve lived a full life and done everything I needed to do, had all the experiences I needed to have. I’m satisfied with it all. I really do feel that way. It’s one of the places I already know I stand, certain and with no doubt whatsoever.

So here I am at this existential milepost, trying to decide which way to go. When I make my final decision it won’t be just a head thing, or just a heart thing. It will be a head and heart thing, reasoned and felt to a degree of certainty that has no doubt left in it.

Those of you who are reading this by now have an idea of my inclinations toward suicide, and hopefully some of the revelations here will give you an understanding of why I did it if I do choose to end my life voluntarily and not wait for nature to take its course. And if it’s more than you can take on right now, take hope in the fact that I’m still here – a surprising thing considering how deeply I’ve desired to be dead and with her – and so it seems that there is at least a small possibility that my life may go on a bit further without Lenore in it.

On the other hand, you deserve a full picture of where I’m at right now, just in case you find yourself having to meet and reconcile my suicide. Here are some things to think about, the thoughts and feelings that are prevailing in me right now. Some of it I’ve covered here already. I’m just bringing it up out of my archives into the light of day.

Though life is what I want, there is something I want more than life. I wish to go on. I want to die. I’ve considered my options. I’ve had the very best that life offers. People tend to avoid all things unhappy or undesirable in the belief that this improves their contentedness. Avoidance is fine, but why would we want to live in a constant state of denial?

I’ve always been one of those who can do what others don’t, or can’t, or won’t. I can look at things others turn away from. I can’t say how or why I am what I am exactly. I have a good heart and a good mind. I’ve had a very full experience. I know that the choices I made, good and bad, and a willingness to learn from my mistakes and missteps helped me gain the life I desired. I know that a mysterious grace helped with the rest.

This is my final choice. It is my hope that with the help of that grace I will gain what I desire yet again. And if dead is dead and all we believe is dust then so be it. I will be with her. That’s what I want.

I choose to not avoid or deny my circumstances, condition, or prospects. I have had a good, full, complete life. I am not compelled by incompletion to fulfill myself. As a matter of fact, everything still available to me here in this life I have already visited. I have no need to retrace those tracks or engage in future facsimiles. I am content with my history, it is enough.

I am old and my body has lost much of its vigor. I’ve held much of my physical condition close, not even telling Lenore everything, although I shared enough with her so that she knew enough. She was an observant girl and I suspect she figured out the rest. My lungs and heart are in bad shape, not retrievable to a condition approximating some form of reasonable health. The symptoms of their further deterioration are showing up in the mirror and my days as they are ravaged further by the stress of grief. I don’t care to deteriorate a piece at a time until death comes. I prefer not to wait on death.

Lenore’s loss and my resultant grief and sadness and despair are a part of my perspective, and I have reckoned with that. It is real, and it is a large part of the choice I make. It is not the only factor. When I consider everything, I’m certain of the choice I’ve made. It’s time to go on.

To many my choice will be a weakness, a sin, a failing, a tragedy, or the result of a temporary derangement. It is none of these. I know what I want, and I know what to do. It is an act requiring strength and resolve and certainty. It is an act of faith, and hope and love. It is an act of faithfulness and devotion. It is an act of completion. I go to her; I go to join her where she is. It is what I want more than I want this life itself.

Those who know love, and know me, will know this is my time to go on. They will know their love didn’t fail me and will not suffer wondering if they could have done more. They will know this is my time to go, and nothing could have held me here.

What about my best friend, Kay, what about the regained connection with Alicia, the loving child I adore, what about the friends and family who love me and would like to have me around for awhile, if only to know that I was still here in this life with them, what will this do to them?

Well, it will hurt them. That pain will also enrich them, but it certainly isn’t my aim to sensitize them to the poignance of life and the nature of death any further than they already are. They’re all exceptional hearts and minds, and know the score of life already. They will understand. They will understand that life without Lenore is not really living for me. They will know that for me, in my circumstances, suicide is a reasonable option. A preferable one, actually.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.
A time to be born…

I have been there. I have done all that.

… and a time to die.

That time is coming, I’m just bound by the fact that until it does come, it is for now that day and hour no one knows. When it comes, it will be that day and hour. Either nature will have taken me to the end, or I will end my life and I will be with her, wherever that is, because that is where I wanted to be more than any other place in the universe.

And if, in the end, this all proves to be only the blood-letting of dark humors in one of the normal stages of grieving, then let it be at least a cautionary tale of the dark ground that will be encountered there in the loss of true love.


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Life Without Lenore

…We were talking about the space between us all
And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth, then it’s far too late, when they pass away
We were talking about the love we all could share
When we find it, to try our best to hold it there with our love
With our love, we could save the world, if they only knew

Try to realize it’s all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you

We were talking about the love that’s gone so cold
And the people who gain the world and lose their soul
They don’t know, they can’t see, are you one of them?

When you’ve seen beyond yourself then you may find
Peace of mind is waiting there
And the time will come when you see we’re all one
And life flows on within you and without you…

“Within You Without You” (George Harrison)

I’m learning some lost and forgotten things about myself these days that were supplanted but not necessarily eradicated from my life when Lenore came into it. For one thing, I’ve recognized that I never cared as much about life as Lenore did until I met her. Lenore loved life. I loved Lenore. That was always the bottom line for me. I left my old self and life behind gladly and joined with her, and being part of that greater self we were together fulfilled us both.

The hole in my life now that she’s gone has informed me of how much I loved her, and why. It wasn’t just the thunderbolt that hit us the day we fell in love and saw each other so clearly and dearly. It was, for me, the experience of waking every day to live with a person who was joyful, positive, loving, and enduring. Cheerful. Every day. She was remarkable that way. Her nature was so very rare – she was certainly the only person I’ve ever known who was that way.

Grief is like being adrift on an emotional ocean. There are peaks and troughs and breakers; times when you can see a horizon, times when you’re down in shadowy depths surrounded by walls of dark water and you can’t get a point of reference because everything shifts and changes. Times when breakers hit and it’s turmoil and tumble and you’re drowning and your chest aches and everything fades toward nothingness.

Yesterday marked 7 weeks since Lenore died. 42 days ago. I fell into a wild ocean of loss and grief that day.

This morning I wonder where I am. Last night, for awhile, listening to the old music with Lenore – her earthly remains next to me in a wooden cube about 8 inches on a side and the rest of her only God knows where – I found an island and I’m trying to remember what I saw from there.

I took a step back and saw a broader view. Lenore was gone, the box of ashes clear proof of that. We all die, and she died before I will. She always said she wanted to die before I did because she wouldn’t know how to be here without me. I always thought I’d die first because I didn’t take care of my body like she took care of hers. I pushed it, I forced my body to do my will no matter how hard the work, I smoked and drank huge amounts of coffee every day, I ignored the advice of doctors.

But she took care of me in the same way she took care of herself because we really were one person with two bodies, and the collateral benefit to my body gave her what she wanted. She died first. If she hadn’t come into my life 33 years earlier I probably would have died years ago.

Lenore appeared on my path when I was exploring the greater mysteries of life and she was part of that path. If she had not been part of it I could have fallen away, back down into the depths I had come from, a place of wounds and pains and thrashing wildness and a deep desire to die and be done with everything I’d suffered in life.

She was the angel who appeared in my life by the grace of God in a time when I had submitted my life to the mysteries of the universe and had become willing to accept whatever came next and not insist on my own desires for what that would be. I was by no means polished, but I was submitted and open and willing. She showed up, smiling and twinkling, a girl who wasn’t afraid of a strange, lone wolf who lived out beyond the edges of the boundary world.

She was the “Bob whisperer,” a girl who loved wild things and was looking for a love both tender and wild, a heart willing to give all to a similar heart and mind, to a creature she could run with and love and, when necessary, soothe and gentle down. The wild boy she loved, the rough boy she fell in love with because he was also loving and kind and gentle, was “the total package,” she said, sometimes “big and stupid,” and sometimes “big and smart.” She was my total package, too.

Down through our years together we became, for the most part, Labradors – domestic, joyful, loved and loving creatures – and the wild wolf in each of us was content, laying in warm sunlight on our high mountain, sometimes coming out in mischievous and playful and adventurous ways, never howling in loneliness or pain.

Now that wildness is back, but there’s a difference. 33 years with her, 33 years as us, 33 years of rare, rare goodness.

The wolf is back, but there’s a difference. I found out what that difference is last night in the words of the old songs; in a place where the ineffable and inexpressible comes into play, a place where personal, emotional connotations in fractured words and phrases spoke clearly to me.

She died. We all die, and when I take the steps backward that are necessary to see the bigger picture, I’m glad she died first. I’m glad I’m the one taking the blow and not her. She died well, it was a good death. She was herself to the last, unafraid, enduring terrible pain, yet ever who she was to the bone – a sweet, loving person willing to hug everyone she met and learn what their story was.

She died, she’s gone from the body, and I’m here without her. That’s truth, plain and simple and clear. I’ve spent 42 days in the wilderness howling at the moon in darkness from a high rock, and her loss is in me forever. Wherever I go, it will go too.

Next Wednesday I’m heading out on the road to live for awhile on the southern Oregon coast. Today the words, the old sweet fractured words, are tumbling in my mind, remnants of last night’s visit to the old songs. I’m in the wild, with her, where the heart speaks it all. Today, anyway. Tomorrow? Damn if I know.


I used to be a rolling stone; I used to look to find the answer on the road.

 Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels, looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields…

In ‘65 I really was seventeen, running on empty, running blind, running into the sun, running behind.

 In ’69 I really was 21, trying to do what I could just to keep my love alive. Running hot, running cold, I was running into overload. I took it so high, so low, there was no where to go – like a bad dream… 

 Then I found Lenore. She was everything to me. She was my girl. I held her near, told her how much I cared. There was laughter and loving and joy in my world everyday when she was my girl. Now I’ve lost everything, she’s gone, gone, gone, gone, gone!

 Death like a thief has come, and like a thief he’s gone. Now I’m a broken heart at the scene of the crime. The nights drag on and I’m lost and blue. Come on and shake this shadow that you’re clinging to… Come to your senses, everybody learns…

 She says don’t go sleeping with the past, don’t go praying I’ll come back, take a deep breath and be here, with me in your heart.

 Although she’s gone and sorrow’s turned my heart to frost, she will mend my heart again. She says remember the feeling as a child, when you woke up and morning smiled, it’s time, it’s time, it’s time you felt like that again.

 There is just no percentage in remembering the past, it’s time you learned to live again and love and last. Come with me, sweet Bob, and leave yesterday behind. And take a giant step outside your mind.

Don’t sit there in your lonely room, looking back inside that gloom, honey that’s not where you belong. Come with me and I’ll take you where the taste of life is sweet, and
everyday – every day – has just got to be seen. Come with me and leave your yesterday, your yesterday, behind – and take a giant step outside your mind.

I used to be a heart beating for someone, but the times have changed.

 She said shine a light, won’t you shine a light. She said I love you. She said shine my light through your eyes, through the eyes of the one left behind. She said if you choose to you can live your life alone, I’ll be with you, just shine a light, shine a light,

 We’ll shine our light here together, and live on…

 She says honey, as soon as you are able, I’m here to make the break that you’re on the brink of. Our cup is on the table, our love is spilling over, waiting here for you to take a
drink from. So if you’re tired of the grieving then turn some pages – I’m here when you’re ready to roll with the changes.

I knew it had to happen, I felt the tables turning, she got me through my darkest hours, when I heard the thunder clapping and felt the desert burning. Now she’s come to me like a sweet sun shower and I’m tired of the same old story. I’m ready to roll with the changes. So let’s roll once more, let’s roll down the highway, let it roll, let it roll… We’ll roll with the changes.

 We’ll howl in the mountains and at the ocean’s edge together. We’ll howl loss, and love, and joy together in this strange, unbearable, wild and beautiful life.

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Here it is. Oops.

November 12, 2016

Donald Trump is President-elect of the United States of America. A mistake of recent history has repeated itself because people did not learn from it. The ignorant and undiscerning voters who committed this act deserve what they will get. They have earned it. Unfortunately there are another 65 million Americans who do not deserve it, have not earned it – and will suffer the consequences as well.


December 15, 2015

It is boggling to my sensibilities, which I will admit have been superseded and apparently abandoned by the sensibilities of the generations which have followed my own, that Donald Trump has become the infantile poster-child, figurehead, and potential prime mover for a group of American citizens suffering from the contemporary form of anti-establishment angst. Is this the best they can do? Aww, come on…

Is all America wants in a President a slick and wily knee-jerk surrogate mouthpiece for bitching and bigotry? Really? I mean, we have to ask ourselves the question sooner or later.

Or maybe it’s already too late. Americans may have made themselves easy marks for a self-punking. Have they become so completely desensitized to blatant character flaws by their disgust with the dysfunctional political status quo that they are willing to select a blatantly flawed character to lead the most powerful country in the world?

Seriously, folks… The bizarre fascination of a fatal train wreck that we really don’t want to see and can’t take our eyes off of is great media entertainment, but it’s time to get serious about Trump’s Traveling Reality Road Show. Can’t we all just get along on eleven seasons of the Kardashians? Probably not, considering the number of “reality” shows there are in the world.

Reality? Really? Donald Trump? If that’s the way it is in America these days we need to redefine the word.


September, 2015


1. “He’s absolutely operating as an intelligent, manipulative bully who truly does not care about the consequences of his actions. He delights in his own ability to manipulate and to show that nobody can stop him.”

2. Roger Stone, one of the master practitioners of the Dark Side of the Political Force, resigned as Donald Trump’s strategist after 30 years of loyal service. Stone told friends Trump is “losing his grip on reality” and that “he has these yes-men around him,” according to Politico. “And now he’s living in a parallel world.”

3. “All of this is so ugly and requires every American of good conscience to speak up and speak out. Do not allow bigotry, soft or hard, to happen uninterrupted in your presence. Silence is compliance. We can, and must, do better.”
“That he has soared to his highest lead yet in the polls is a frightening reflection of the true American soul.”

March 15, 2016


If there was some way I could reach these angry, hateful people who are fearful and unreasonable in their thoughts and rhetoric and actions, the one thing I’d say to help them would be this: they need to understand that it’s a world-improving measure to take a close look at themselves and honestly acknowledge how they have personally helped to create the external issues and upsets they’re looking at.

Mahatma Gandhi observed that in human behaviors and particularly with regard to political movements, “the end is inherent in the means.” This means that if you’re supporting a movement with a hateful, arrogant, angry, fearful, exclusionary world view, and you win power, what you’re going to get is a hateful, arrogant, angry, fearful, exclusionary world. In other words, you will never leave the world you have always lived in and never had the sense or courage to rise above or move beyond.

Albert Einstein observed that no problem can be solved by the same kind of thinking that created it. That observation was about a null result of an experiment which couldn’t prove there was an “aether” medium which existed and enabled light waves to travel through empty space. This quote has been altered by popular massage into the truism “no problem can be solved at the same level of consciousness that created it.” It shouldn’t be attributed to Einstein, of course, but the principle it communicates is very true.

Lower-level consciousness can not solve the problems it creates with means that are hateful, arrogant, angry, fearful, and exclusionary. It just can’t be done with those things. It takes a higher level of consciousness to do that. And that starts when those things simply cease. It is not necessary to convert our hate to love, for example, to rise to a higher level of consciousness which might help us actually solve a problem. It is a good enough start if we can simply move from hating to not hating.

When you silence the opposition, any discussion is over and you can claim your perspective prevailed. Many times, all you have to do is close your mind and cover your ears. Near as I can tell, the only difference between a Conservative American and a Liberal American these days is that a typical liberal will allow you to have your say and listen – and a typical conservative won’t. Unfortunately, in order to come together and reason it takes two willing participants.

Here are just three conditions in the past which created an environment vulnerable to being misused by evil people: disagreements over policies and a growing political polarization between the parties on the left and the right prevented the formation of a workable coalition; there was a movement which dramatically increased its public support by advertising itself as a movement against the ineffectiveness of the “system”; and propagandists justified exclusionary, angry, and hateful actions and rhetoric by portraying them as morally defensible and necessary.

All these things are present now in America and have created an opportunity for a regime of unconscious evil to have even more power in American politics than it has now. Just as it was in 1930’s Germany.

A hate group is an organized group or movement that advocates and practices hatred, hostility, or violence towards members of a race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other designated sector of society.

Here is the seven stage model of hate crime developed for the FBI:

The hater finds other users with similar views to form a group
The group develops symbols and rituals to identify itself
The group shares its views to bond itself
The target is taunted
The target is attacked
The target is attacked with weapons
The target is destroyed

The Trump campaign and its supporters are up to stage five. How much farther will it go?

April 8, 2006 (10 years ago)

It’s been years since 9/11 dropped a curtain of fear over America and the resultant blank check written to the Bush administration to combat terrorism was cashed in Iraq.

It’s been years since the carrier speech: Saddam toppled, his pedestal bare. Victory. The triumphant end of the plan. Too bad it wasn’t the end of the war. Too bad there wasn’t more of a plan.

Now, 2,000 troop deaths later, we’re encouraged to not look at “artificial mileposts.” Don’t look. If you do, the sheer morbid fascination of train wrecks and bloody crashes will take you down. Hard.

Scooter Libby’s indictment- another milepost- is unraveling the roots of the war. The arrogant, self-righteous perfidy of this administration’s “artificial intelligence” is being exposed to air and light. So when the trials come, don’t look. It’s going to get uncomfortable if you do.

Blind moral rectitude, greed, unenlightened self interest, spin, hubris, arrogance and betrayal will all be facts of record at the final judgment of the Bush administration and its supporters. And the self-inflicted hits just keep coming. Before it’s over the right reds and left blues will collectively take their rightful and collateral lumps in an era of American politics which may simply become known as The Bruise.

The current prevailing American electorate is not a victim and will not be dismissed from prosecution as co-commitors of the Bush administration. They were told, they were warned, the information was readily available. And “don’t look” prevailed.

So don’t look. Stay the course. Spin dizzily on. It’s best to stay the course. Let “oops” be the ongoing defense.

Things I have no doubts about:
1. George Bush has taken lots of vacation time because being President is hard work. He’s been working hard, doing the hard work. He will preside only after he has been scripted, groomed and rehearsed by others and can deal with American sentiments like a weasel deals with a baby chick. And that’s hard work.
2. The President of the United States of America is not, as many believe, a committee. It’s just a group of these guys, see, who have been in politics so long even God has lined up with them. The correct term is “commitor,” i.e. “one who commits or perpetrates.” The “committee” is the one perpetrated against. The victim.
3. Ignorance is still no excuse under the law. More’s the pity. Shucks. Dog-gone it.
4. We were told to stay the course, establish democracy, support our troops, our faith, our God, church. It will be difficult to define the “course” stayed upon. It has changed so often. Was it confronting terrorists? Eliminating WMD’s? Jugging an evil guy? Democratizing a corrupt middle-eastern theocracy yearning to breathe free (except for a small oil surcharge to repay the favor) air?

So here we are, back where we were, again. Donald Trump is President of the United States of America. A mistake of recent history has repeated itself because people did not learn from it. The ignorant and undiscerning voters who committed this act deserve what they will get. They have earned it. Unfortunately there are another 65 million Americans who do not deserve it, have not earned it – and will suffer the consequences as well.

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Getting Light and Letting Go: An update

May 14, 2016

What an adventure this is! Or possibly a cautionary tale. Sometimes it feels like it’s headed in that direction. Then I remember what my old mentor would have said: “You know that feeling you get when you think your life is turning into a cautionary tale? You know what that is? That’s just a feeling, that’s all that is!” And then he’d laugh.

The feeling passes as feelings do; our consciousness of the mysterious, cooperative flow that is present in everything returns, and we carry on.

We have now sold our home and have a truck capable of, as one person said, “hauling a house down the road.” Which is exactly what we’re planning to do with it, albeit a small one. And the piano, which Lenore was concerned about, has found a home. Right here. The home buyer said they would like to have it.

I found the truck in Bend, Oregon. It’s about a 2 ½ hour drive from home to get there but it was worth it. I hope. It’s a used Chevy diesel truck with a Duramax engine and Allison transmission and various aftermarket upgrades, some for performance and power, some just to make it look good. I am a baby duckling in the diesel world. I educated myself the best I could and found the truck after searching all over Oregon and Washington. To the best of my knowledge it’s a good truck for our purposes, but I am taking it in to Brush Prairie WA next Monday to have some diesel pros I know there tell me just exactly what it is I’ve got – or gotten myself into. There’s that feeling again

Lenore went down to Bend with me to pick it up and drove our car back in spite of the fact she’s been having some hip flexor pain due to what now sounds like a torn psoas muscle or related tendons. An MRI has been scheduled after a round of physical therapy which actually made the condition worse due to faulty instructions from a therapist about what exercises to do and how to do them. Lenore, being who she is, did the exercises conscientiously until she realized that the hip was getting worse, not better. Currently she uses a cane to get around. Undeterred, she insists on doing everything she can every day. The trip to Bend was a stretch for her, and I was worried about that. She made it without aggravating the injury and we were both relieved when we got home. She is one go-ahead woman. Just one of the literally countless things I love her for.

We had a good trip home and the truck ran great. I showed it to my neighbor Shawn the next day. He’s a motorcycle racer and has a top-of-the-line Honda racing bike in his garage he won at a competition recently. He’s an X-Games kind of guy, a “rad dude,” extreme snowboarder, etc. I didn’t realize he knew about diesels. He looked it over real good, pointing out everything he saw, and then informed me I had a “pimped ride, dude!” He told me I was going to have to get a tat now, suggested a Chevy logo on my upper arm. I think I will forego that… I’ll see what the pros in Brush Prairie say before passing any final judgments on the truck.

We had two offers on the house. The day we listed it we had a visit from a couple who wanted it but needed us to carry a first mortgage on it and then vacate about 3 weeks after closing, which would have put a terrific burden on us – “getting light” takes more time than we thought it would. After some discussion we’d zeroed in on the terms they needed and we were considering it when a cash buyer appeared. The new offer was more than our asking price, and the buyer was fine with a 2 month grace period, after closing the deal, before we would need to vacate. It was nice to experience that consciousness of the flow of the universe working with us when that happened.

And we definitely need to hold on to that perspective and go where the flow takes us. Currently we’re looking for a fifth wheel to be our home on the road, and that too has been an adventure.

I’ve always had good luck buying vehicles from owners rather than dealers and my experience with both convinced me that owners are the only way to go. I can see the good in almost any person who has gravitated to the profession of selling wheeled vehicles. By the same token I rarely see any good in the practices of their trade, or the effects it has on their character.

Yet, in the process of buying the truck and then the fifth wheel, I included dealers in my search. Suffice it to say that what I have encountered on the dealer side has left me disappointed to say the very least. I’m going with owners now after yet another schooling in such matters.

I’ve been searching all over the country for a particular brand of fifth wheel and a particular floor plan. When one popped up in my search at a dealer only about six hours away from us, it felt like the force was with us. That was just a feeling. It was actually the flow, gently directing us back to owners and away from the rocky shores and whirlpools of dealerships.

It was the same thing with my early truck search. I found one at an “honest, low-key, quality-only, fixed-price, high-integrity” dealer, took it to the guys out at Brush Prairie for a pre-purchase inspection because I was leery of it (at the time I didn’t have as much information on board as I do now but I had enough for a flag or two to pop up), and by the time all the grunting and groaning and wincing and eventual indignation and muttered swearing of Angus, the guy who checked it out in depth for me, was over it was pronounced a pig in pink paint that nobody would be able to make even a sow’s ear from, let alone a silk purse. So it goes.

Yet it turned out to be a good thing. The education I got from Angus about diesels as I followed him around during the inspection was priceless, and I had enough faith in what I’d learned to trust my judgment in selecting the truck I’ve bought. I may be wrong (there’s that feeling again) but confidence is high. Monday will tell the tale.

We’re still a ways from our goal, which is to be located in some beautiful natural setting featuring a lake, glacier, beach, forest, etc. and posting blog entries on a site called “Travels with Murphy.” (He’s our yellow Lab puppy, now nearly 6 months old and finally showing some signs of IQ gain.) But we’re getting there.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Getting Light and Letting Go: A New Adventure

April 16, 2016

This morning, instead of the usual geese flying over our valley there was a hawk sailing free on the air currents above us. I took it for a good augur of the moment, and our future.

It’s been an interesting season around here. Last New Year we began reducing some of the accumulation of things we’ve acquired since 1986 – the last time we reduced all our worldly belongings into what would fit into 3 suitcases. That year we flew to Florida with our 2 year old daughter, lived and worked there for 6 months, and then had a leisurely, wonderful car trip back to Vancouver, WA. Where we started accumulating again. That was 30 years ago.

By 2009 we’d managed to collect so much stuff that when we moved here to our mountain home we divested ourselves of a volume of things that would have filled about half of an 18-wheeler. But we didn’t get rid of enough. It’s amazing and a bit shaming what the American lifestyle produces in the way of material goods. Granted, we had our own remodeling company and quite a bit of accumulated inventory and tools as well as saved projects “I’ll do one of these days…” But beyond that we finally became aware of just how much we’d actually managed to accumulate in our home alone.

We are not profligate people. We shop at thrift stores often, I’ve made several pieces of the furniture we have myself, Lenore sews and knits and mends our clothing. We have simple tastes and a small appetite for things. And yet, even so, we still have all this stuff! Books, desks, file cabinets and years of obsolete files; clothing we no longer wear or wear rarely; stored, unused bedding and curtains and drapes and sewing fabric; board games and children’s toys and stuffed animals rarely used except when the grandchildren visit; more furniture than we need, a vault of mementos and photos we never visit – the list goes on and on.

So here we are. 2016. A new dawn, a new day, and more than ever a time when the present is present in consciousness, and the past is fading fast. All the things that have stuck to us are losing their adhesive and falling off. We are here, now, and it’s time for a new adventure. We’re selling out everything one more time, just like back in ’86, and going on the road in an RV.

Next week the realtor comes, and in the meantime I am building temporary plywood tables for the garage sale. Recycling and dump runs have happened and more will follow. We’re bagging the useless and worthless, tagging the sellable, and hoping the old 1905 Cable Nelson piano finds a good home. Formerly a player piano, it has a sound box and sound board that produces a large, rich, wonderful tone. It has a nice action, too. We hope we can get it to a musician who can appreciate what a great instrument it is.

I’ll keep you posted.

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The Magic Of Winter Solstice: 7 Ways to Celebrate the Returning Light

This gallery contains 12 photos.

Originally posted on The Muse in the Mirror:
With Christmas fast approaching, it can be all too easy to get swept away in the festive frenzy of need and expectation, and to lose sight of the true reason for the season. Whilst…

Gallery | 5 Comments