April 18th, 2019
We took a long, leisurely drive up to Boston yesterday, in order for Delycia to visit a good friend. I was a bit sleepy during the drive (Cia was driving), but I managed to do some lazy but serious thinking during the drive, almost like a moving meditation. I have noticed that I very much enjoy moving, either in a car when someone else is driving or on the train when we go to Boston, because for some reason I am able to enjoy either reading or thinking more when I’m moving then when I am just sitting still somewhere.
While Delycia was visiting with her friend, I enjoyed a quiet cup of coffee at Panera, just thinking, reading a little, and enjoying the family atmosphere in the café during this school holiday week. After coffee, I walked across the street and sat on a bench in springtime sunshine in the small park in the middle of the town of Newton. I was surprised to be able to sit outside, since the morning hours back in Mystic had been chilly, but in Newton, the weather had warmed up nicely so an old, serene guy could be cared for by the spring sunshine for at least a few minutes. I read a little from a beloved spiritual book of mine, highlighting and underlining special passages, pausing now and then to let the wisdom of the word sink in and to feel the flow of the warming April air. It was really a feeling like paradise for me, but to be honest, most of my minutes in these years in my 70s seem to be pretty close to paradise.
I sometimes find myself thinking about elements of life that seem to be infinite – elements that don’t have starting points or ending places, that have no boundaries or borders or edges or limits. These are the intangible parts of life, the parts that can’t be seen or touched but that stay with us forever and flow without end from everywhere to everywhere. The love we feel for family and friends, for instance, and for life itself, is as infinite as the universe. It has no limits, no boundaries where suddenly the love is blocked and stops. The sky, perhaps, has a far distant place where stars can’t shine, but love knows no such place, and will shine unfailingly everywhere and forever. Gentleness, too, is infinite. What barrier can bring gentleness to a stop, or what power can prevail over its soft, unceasing authority? And of course there’s the endless present moment, the moment that never starts and never ends and can never be destroyed. The present is infinite, always here and now, always able to endure beyond the borders of space and time in this infinitely vast life we’re all living.
April 16, 2019
Yesterday was a fairly quiet one for us – we who often seem busy with dozens of activities in these senior, supposedly easygoing years. One of the highlights for me on this happy-go-lucky day was the wondrously simply dinner that Delycia prepared for us. It was nothing ‘special’ – just a luscious meatloaf and carrots glazed with ginger and the juice of an orange. I loved it, in the same way that I always love the simplest of things, including modest days like yesterday.
One of the simple things we did was walk briskly on the treadmills at the YMCA. We had intended to walk on the beach in Watch Hill, but the weather turned rainy as we started out, so we headed back to the Y and got a good workout (me in my beach-walking clothes) on the treadmills (even though it meant watching the big screen TVs and their portrayal of the tragic fire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.)
… on the beach, before the rain came
April 15, 2019
Yesterday, we had a long, satisfying morning of ‘worship’ – not worship like in a church, and not the worship of a ‘god’ that’s up in the sky somewhere, but worship of the present moment, worship of the mysteries of right here and right now.
We began around 5:00 a.m., when Delycia and I came together in the sunroom, softly tapped our chiming bell, and began an hour of silent meditation, surrounded by the battery-powered candle lights flickering in the early darkness and the bright geranium and amaryllis blossoms.
At 6:00, we had a quiet breakfast together, followed by an almost silent walk in lovely Wilcox Park. There was an enchanting mist, almost fog, in the park, which made the walk seem somehow mysterious, perhaps even sacred, as though we were participating in some spiritual ceremony. I love that park, and yesterday morning I felt a sort of devotion to it, as though it was an actual outdoor place of worship.
Around 9:00, we went to the Quaker meeting house to participate in what is called ‘a meeting for worship with attention to business”, or just ‘business meeting’. This is a monthly meeting in which Quakers all over the world gather to discuss the financial aspects of their local meeting house. It’s a business meeting, but the Quakers also treat it as a meeting for worship. By doing business in a peaceful, friendly way, they feel like they are actually worshiping the infinite Spirit, or Light, of the universe. Our business meeting yesterday gave both of us another opportunity for silent meditation, as we spoke only briefly at the very end of the 80-minute meeting. As our friends around us spoke and discussed, we tried our best to hold them and us and everything ‘in the Light’, as a Quaker might say.
Then, at 10:30, the actual meeting for worship began – 60 minutes of absolute silence among perhaps 20 other worshipers. On two occasions, friends stood up and shared a brief thought that had come to them, and then sat down and continued in silence. It was, as it usually is for me, 60 minutes of peace and inspiration.
I wish I could type a very soft-looking WOW, because that’s what I feel when I think about yesterday morning’s almost 7 hours of silent and blessed tranquility.
April 14, 2019
Yesterday, we attended a spiritual discussion at our Quaker Meeting house on the topic of “waiting on the Lord”, an old and much-loved Quaker phrase. It was clear from the get-go that none of us thought of “the Lord” as some super-person sitting up in the clouds and passing judgment on we people down below (which is the idea many of us probably had in our youth). We all agreed, I think, that “the Lord” refers to a power existing in the universe that is greater than any one of us, and that ‘waiting’ on this power (or maybe the Power) simply means getting quiet, turning inward, being patient, and listening for what messages may come. For me, it was a refreshing and inspiring 90 minutes – just having a group of friends together and sharing insights about something that is far more important than our usual daily concerns. I actually ‘waited’ a lot during the discussion, just quietly listening to my friends and finding much wisdom in what they said.
Later, we drove to Peacedale, RI, where I took part in a poetry reading organized by a fellow participant in our Westerly poetry groups. It was quite an honor for me to sit on the stage with seven other poets – not famous, well-published poets, but people who simply love putting words down on paper (or, like me, on the computer screen). I was proud to be there, and proud to have Cia sitting in the front row, just a few feet from me.
April 13, 2019
I went to our writing class yesterday morning (Cia stayed home for some needed solitude), and, once again, I was deeply inspired by the writing that was read at the end. These folks – all ladies, except for our leader – are in their 70’s and 80’s, and are thoroughly honest in their writings about their personal experiences and feelings. They find the strength, every Friday, to say the most heartfelt stories about themselves, and to share their scariest or happiest thoughts. What Delycia and I especially enjoy about the class is that it’s the only one of the several adult groups we meet with that involves no arguing, no interrupting – only civil and sincere sharing.
I enjoyed cooking for Cia and me this week. Slowly, I am letting go of my anxieties and defeatist thoughts about cooking, and finding the genuine peace that can come from quietly and carefully preparing a meal for a loved one. Last night, I cooked up a simple pizza recipe, and as I was getting it ready, I was able, at least now and then, to stay centered and focused on what was happening right now, this moment – the sprinkling of the cheese and the sauce, the careful placing of veggies around the pizza dough, the scattering of some additional sauces across the top. I’m finding that even preparing an easy pizza can be an almost spiritual activity – some moments of silent, pleasing meditation in the kitchen.
April 12, 2019
We went to the Y after lunch yesterday for our daily workout, and I decided to do a quiet, almost meditative upper body workout – no super-high heartbeats, no exhaustion, just slow and steady raising and lowering of weights. It was fun to go from machine to machine in the fairly empty workout rooms, just patiently pumping away, feeling my breath coming somewhat harder and stronger, looking around occasionally at the other men and women working hard, and sometimes stopping to stare out the huge windows at the always lovely seacoast just beyond us.
Here’s beardless Hammy having fun …
Later, we went to a friend’s home for our bimonthly ‘centering prayer’ gathering. There were just four of us this time, sitting silently for 60 minutes and then sharing some thoughts at the end, and I found it to be a fulfilling way to start bringing the day to a close. I almost fell asleep a few times, but that seemed almost fitting, since the day itself was starting to fall asleep. Overall, it was 60+ minutes of insight and peacefulness for me, as it usually is.
Delycia and I had a brisk and tiring (for me) walk yesterday afternoon, about 3 miles along lovely River Road. I found it quite exhausting mostly because of the length of time – 60 draining minutes of walking briskly in a fairly robust breeze. I still don’t have the right mental attitude for that kind of drawn-out walking. I guess I want to get the exercise over with so I can get on to other less taxing activities. I simply have to settle my thoughts and embrace the fact that 60 minutes of fast walking can be 60 minutes of amazing adventure.
April 10, 2019
This morning, I finally saw an elephant that’s been in my room – my life – for most of my life. The elephant’s name is “good friends”. Here’s how it happened . . .
I had been planning for a week to take our car in for service and just wait at the dealership for most of the day, until the car was ready. We have just one car, and I had forgotten to make an ahead-of-time appointment, so my only choice (I thought) was to just wait for the car until the service guys could fit it in to their schedule, even if it meant 6 or 7 hours of waiting.
What happened this morning, however, was that I finally saw the elephant. For some reason, it suddenly occurred to me that I have many friends nearby who could help me in this situation. Sitting in the early morning light in our sunroom, I realized – duh! – that I have friends who not only could help me but would be happy to help me in this situation. I thought about this unfamiliar, newly uncovered fact for a few minutes, and then decided to take action. I sent messages by email and text to several friends, and within 30 minutes I had replies, and was all set to drive to the dealership in a few minutes, picked up there by a friend and driven home, and then picked up at home in the afternoon by a friend and driven back to the dealership. It was a rather astonishing change for me, an abrupt vision, you might say, where I was able to see what had been right there – in the room – all the time: good friends.
I wonder … what other elephants that I can’t see are in the room of my life?