my brother wants hot chocolate


It's Sunday, at last a quiet moment to reflect.

But on what? Events and emotions feel so densely compressed these days, they cannot even be observed. Maybe if opened, peeled apart, inspected one at a time, the truth/beauty in them can be seen.

On the surface, it all looks manageable. Went to California and attended a remarkable retreat where I experienced wordless and unmoving silence, a vast nothingness (that was something); did my yoga practice every day; meditated with and beyond sleepiness for the first time (hooray); and enjoyed good food and cold Tahoe weather. At the end when retreatants "re-entered" the world, I felt sadness because I had no one to hug(!) and because my heart was already breaking from family stuff. 

There was no savoring the small satoris. In Woodland my brother was lying prone in a bed at the far end of a darkened room he shared with two other men whose TV's were at shout volume. His curtained cubicle contained a hanging TV, an old, beige land-line phone, and a table that swiveled to and from the bed, which offered cookies, books, and a pee-bottle. In the corner, behind a wheelchair was a window with blinds pulled down. Black butterflies adorned an event calendar pinned to a framed cork board, and below it, was a note written in block letters:


I started to cry. How could this be? My brother here in this strange place, alone, apparently dying? But this was not about me. My brother has always been indifferent to surroundings, clothes, material things, and appearances. Underneath an unhappy, "difficult" (in the extreme) nature was/is a loving, charismatic man with a monk's focus  toward the world. He had in fact, wanted to become a monk and entered the Christian Brothers Order his third year of high school. Believing that he was too young to make such a decision, our parents  insisted he abandon this life choice. I have wondered without assigning blame, if part of the source of his problems was that parental interference. Of course, who can know where other paths might have led? 

We talked. I cried. Was he happy? What did he think of dying and being in hospice? How was he feeling? I trimmed his overgrown and neglected beard and mustache. I brought him pen and paper; held his hand (while sitting in the wheel chair moved from the window corner), watched him eat overcooked zucchini, ignore a slab of pizza, and experience physical pain; I showed him emails from our cousins, pinned up a drawing from his granddaughter, and true to my conditioning, tried to fix things—things that cannot be fixed.

He is very sharp minded and tough. I believe it will be a while before he leaves. His family and everyone are doing their best for him and for themselves. 

All is as it should be. Even deep deep heartache.

Is there anything more powerful than birth and death? Love is too small a word. 

And yes, this too is yoga.


Got to add these 2 beauties again

by Jean Valentine

In blue-green air & water God
you have come back for us,
to our fiberglass boat.

You have come back for us & I’m afraid.
(But you never left.)

Great sadness at harms.
But nothing that comes now, after,
can be like before.

Even when the icebergs are gone, and the millions of suns

have burnt themselves out of your arms,

your arms of burnt air,
you are with us

wherever we are then.

I want to look at death
with eyes like my own baby eyes,
not yet blinded by knowledge.
I told this to my friend the monk,
and he said Want, want, want/

from a poem by Chase Twichell

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