Yestereve I gave words to what scared me, spoke words that were heavy in waiting, and my period, often irregular, came at long last. And in my dreams I came into a dark and beautiful landscape of deciduous green forests and untrodden fields. In such peace my companion and I passed through abandoned school playgrounds on this frontier where hope was forsaken, for better than hope had been found. We traveled further into this unknown land, the unmarked trail our guide, until we fell into a happy festival of friends and singing. And how we cried for those we loved and missed, but we were not lonely, nor any longer heavy-hearted. The music of friendship and laughter alighted around us, and I lay in happiness as harmless stampeding souls thundered around me in a great wave of hilarity. It was the eve of the end of days within this World Who never ends as I climbed the limbs of unknown trees. There is no map to this place beyond every map’s end, heartaching Pilgrim, but that you are the compass, aligned. – Gentle Jeffrey Pine.
Written by Gentle Jeffrey Pine.
How quickly the days go by now, the weeks and the months and the years. All of a sudden I am closer to thirty than twenty. People twice my age laugh. Someday I will be countless years gone from this time. When I was a child, time crawled.
I have never had anxiety about aging until now. The only thing that matters, in the end, is looking back on a life that one has lived with purpose and dedication. I now see the signs of aging in my face, and I, too, am traveling the path of the ancestors. T is twelve years older than me, and the thought that he will likely die before I do is difficult already, but I will not be long after him.
I had a dream that T and I had grown old together and loved each other all our days. When he died, I looked for his spirit on a bright mountain. There was a tree of shimmering coppery-gold leaves, the color of his hair, and his spirit was in this tree. I went to him there and embraced him, my arms around the trunk of the happy tree, and I could feel his love eternally, and the whole soul of him in the tree enclosed me in his affection.
Buddha said, “I have gained nothing from meditation. But what I have lost: the fear of sickness, old age and death.”
I may never have children, but I don’t need to have any to feel very close to the lineage of humanity. This great love is the continuity of generations. I wonder if the fear of aging is the fear of losing touch with God, because we fear that we have not lived in the way we were meant to. I wonder if a happy aging and death is the peace of drawing nearer to God.
Animals live for a decade or so, a few species for many decades, but often we humans outlive our companion species. In some sense we humans are afflicted by the length of our lives. We must live with the conscious knowledge of our own coming death. I wonder if animals may also live with this knowledge, but they do so with more grace than we do. They do not worry about it. They simply live, and demonstrate real grace and wisdom in it. They do not mind how many years or months or days they have left. We humans carry the past and the future, struggling to stay in the present, because we remember the beloved dead of the past and the vital youths of the future in whom we hope to be born anew. This entire ancestral context of memory and love, of encircling relationships, relatives and rebirths: we keep in touch with the living and the dead.
The wisdom of the Western World, which does not need to be Eastern to be great, is fully at home with embracing and acknowledging humanity’s insatiable hunger for love and for life, even beyond death. However good Buddha’s wisdom was in its own way, it fails to be at peace (the very peace it proclaims?) with the fact that the heart of love is stronger than death. Desire is holy.
“Margaret the First” the playwright of 17th century England, married a man some twenty years her senior, and they were known to have loved each other dearly. In Danielle Dutton’s book about her life, it is recounted how they are not able to have children; one day, when she is middle-aged in her forties and he in his seventies, they kneel together beside the river, and in loving gentleness she still sees in him the handsome younger man she married, and he sees in her the young maiden likewise.
People live longer now. I spent the happier days of my childhood with my grandparents, aged 60 by the time I was born. I saw how they loved each other all the more securely in old age.
This is the way I will be with T. Age will make us love each other more.
I have quiet mind. I ask for quiet mind then worry what to do when I get it. I have nothing to say when I get it. The world is the one who has something to say. All this while I am sitting at the cafe. Overhearing a woman at the checkout stand say she cannot sleep without the TV on, I am thankful this is not one of my problems. In front of me is the newspaper telling about the three police recently dead in Baton Rouge. Red Stick, blood stuck in the muck. And the two black men before them. But something else quiet beneath them. I remember being eleven years old on 9/11 and I was only upset the adults were pressuring us kids to get frantic, take it personally. But every damn night on the evening news before and after this day there are stories of bloodshed and death. But this one is exceptional, every new bloody death is unheard of. This is not cynical. It would bring us all together and make us feel angry and proud, make us feel what we’re missing. Everyday thousands and millions of people die and I learned at an early age to not to pay mind to the news, instead to drop under into the pulse of the world, the sandstone raw ground of the soft belly below. Down here there’s more sense. We can mourn our dead as they call out to be loved, making sense of the senseless because it is in this place, not in the nightly news, but in the underworld where we finally approach the hugeness that is death, and yet its nothingness, its normalcy. To live in love of the world is not to be “worldly”, not to think that the world is the shadow facade that is shown in the papers. The world comes to us all, embraces the dead to say live again, here in my bosom find life anew. You are remembered and never forgotten. Here there is love. To be in relationship with the world is to turn away from the anger that passes for news, because it isn’t the real news of the world. The real news is that the dead have already found heaven because they began to find it in life and now they live again in a new way. They put on new skin, come out between the legs or cut belly of a different mother again. The news of the world is the truth that we can only live on a personal scale, turn back into animals when the curtain falls. We do not access the world by becoming engorged on society’s drama. The society is not the world. Draw closer to the soul of the world this way: stare into a single seed of a tree. Written history is a pile of dead bodies. Watch the worms crawling away from it, carrying words of love from the dead, transporting their atoms to wombs. You want to remember the dead? You want to love them and tell them they still matter. So do I. You’ll have better luck finding them in the face of the river, in the endless mirror. Turn out the heart to be wrung in the rain and the sun. Behold the beautiful young men. Listen to the gallant young women. Draw close to them. They’re carrying life. You’ll be back here again.