Forest fire: the smell of mortality

GLOUCESTER: O, let me kiss that hand!

KING LEAR: Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality.

Sitting in the doctor’s office, wheezing, shaking, naked, feeling overweight, feeling old, feeling very human…

is the most humbling.  Helpless, mortal, humble, not pretty.

We all get there.  We’ve all been there.

I have a friend who is having a baby today, right now.

Humbling – human – not pretty – messy – painful – beautiful.  it is the paradox of being a mortal human in a body;  a spirit in a flawed, miraculous, never-static container of flesh, blood, fat, water and bone.

I sat there crying, and wrote a message to my tribe of powerful women…

and they lifted me up.



love your body.

1/2 hour walk after meals to help digest, to feel better, not to punish.

change is the only constant.

this is temporary, as is everything … everything.”

I love these women ; I called them into my life because I needed to start a forest fire, and burn the old stories –

I called them into my life because I knew I wanted to LIVE, and spread out into the depth and breadth of the days I have left.

I did not want to live what was not life…

I didn’t want to spend any more time hiding, lying to myself, pretending, living with any – ANY- negative self-talk or negative interactions with others…

life is far too precious a gift.

WImagee hear it all the time: life is a gift, don’t waste it; carpe diem, blah blah…we hear the words – they are lovely words, but to truly listen to one’s own heart and live the words is something else entirely.

It takes a forest fire – it takes the courage to sit with one’s own humbling humanity and not turn away from it – it takes the determination to call in better things, kinder people, and let go of the old things –that’s the hardest — it takes letting go so and sitting with emptiness for a time, so there is room for the new life to come in.

Sitting there in the doctor’s office, helpless, stinking of mortality,

old stories came up. Old stories of punishing physical exercise that broke my body – but I would be fit at all costs – stories of food being the enemy, of a dollop of milk in my coffee being my “calories” for the day, and my “protein” … all I thought I deserved.

So many tears, tears of self-hatred…

they came again, those tears ; they are not cleansing tears – they are tears that feel like they’ve been wrung out of a twisted, misshapen tree that can’t reach the sun …

they came again today,

but I called on my tribe and wrote a new story instead.  I remembered the bonfire in which we had burned our limitations – literally, writing them on scraps of paper or x-ray photographs or bundled up prayer flags containing pieces of our past – we burned them. The twisted, agonized tree I was burned in that fire; I remembered that today, and called on the tribe of women who had stood with me as it burned, howling at the moon together like wild, exultant wolves.

I remembered the sparks flying up, the heat of the fire on my cheeks – cheeks stretched in a feral grin of joy that was echoed in the firelit faces around me- the crunch of our feet in the snow as we stood together and burned the old , twisted, tortured branches of our lives….

The ugly, dark forest growth blocking my path was cleared. It became strong branches I could climb upon.  Raising myself on the new, strong growth, I , too, will become  stronger and clearer.

Stepping up on to the first branch: deal with the sickness. Ask for an inhaler so you can go for a walk. Go for a walk and inhale. Focus on the small things, one foot in front of the other, gratitude for life, for breathing.

Reaching the second branch above my head: learn to respect your needs. Call your date. Be considerate for yourself and him. Communicate bravely. Trust that if you take care of your needs and respect yourself, he will understand.

Third branch: exhale. look at food, see the nourishment in it.  Find food that has grown healthy, nurtured by the sun and the air and the rain, coaxed into being and harvested by other humans such as yourself… acknowledge the connection…nurture your being.

My cat will not eat , even when I pour his food out and he’s hungry – he stands there looking at me until I have petted him and said “good morning, love, have breakfast.”

Food as connection. Food as nurturing.  Food, not as the enemy, but as a mindful caring of the physical body I dwell inside.

When i can connect the spiritual growth with physical well-being, I will be more clear; I will no longer be fragmented of focus – I will have even more to give to the healing work I want to do with the time I have left here.

I am getting there…one branch at a time, I am pulling myself up toward the clear, nourishing sunlight. Straight and tall, no more twisting around in the shadows.

The forest fire is behind me, but I can still smell it… that smoke smell will twine through my days, to remind me of how far I have come.

When I get drawn back into that old twisted, agonized tree, I will simply breathe and focus on gratitude for the wise women in my life, and the man who left me a caring, considerate, loving, understanding message today, too.  These are my tribe and I am grateful for them.

Perhaps the smell of mortality is not so bad, after all.  Being human; aging, changing, the process of living and dying – all it involves –  is the most daring performance art piece ever created; we can learn so much from this raw, paradoxically beautiful and ugly work of art, if we only pay attention.

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