Nourished By The Mystery
April 14th, 2009
...With the touching mystery of Phoebeâ€™s spirit surrounding the moment when they were gathered, not actually gathered, but receivedâ€Ś.
It is now moments before 7 pm, the sun is still in the sky but it is now racing towards the horizon like an unidentified floating object. We just finished drinking our home brew I saved for this last moment. Steve and David Best are walking back toward the house and I’ve got my pillow, ensolite pad and blanket and am heading the other way to find a place to watch the last light, let the day simmer and fall gracefully into a long awaited nap. The light through the trees is glowing in epic proportions. Not a puff of wind—more like a vacuum, anti-wind. Oak and Olive leaves are glowing vermillion. The grass field reflects the afternoon like it was an ocean, the blades of grass small ripples of waves moving across the hillside. Hanging from the trees are small red satchels. They hang still, but the perfect stillness and the dramatic contrast of the red against these greens is enough movement to trick the mind into perceiving motion and some sort of pulsing radiance. Or maybe it’s no trick at all. We are making prayer ties or prayer bundles on this day. Small gifts carrying our prayers and wishes, like Tibetan prayer flags, the small cotton bundles are part of an ancient tradition from the Native American that lived on this mountain and across this continent long before us; the pieces of cloth and string slowly deteriorating and
sending their contents to the heavens and earth. There is an alter of photos and intimate things of Phoebe. Sage and Palo Santo are burning in an abalone shell. Each person is using bits from a bouquet of Native American grown tobacco leaves that were given to me as a gift for this occasion, white sage, beach glass we collected in Elk, obsidian the boys and I collected at 10,000 feet in the Sierras, lavender that I grew on my deck, Spruce from our living Christmas trees, moss and needles from my madrone alter below Mt Tam, sea shells, small stones from the beaches that Henry, Drew and I explored this last month, flowers from today on Sonoma mountain meadows-- all meaningful medicines; collected and given with intention, by nature, and with the touching mystery of Phoebe’s spirit surrounding the moment when they were gathered, not actually gathered, but received…. Each person kneeling on the blanket Phoebe brought us from her trip to Thailand, working reverently on their prayer sacks, but also collectively in groups with laughter, devotion and contagious creativity marking this spot under these giant Olive trees. As I walk out to the small shack, alone now, after this long day, this week since Tuesday (april 14th), this long long year I am astounded by the perfection of this moment. Truly being nourished by the mystery of this day, year, life. There are five or so red bundles around the bees,
perfect in it. Phoebe would always take an idea and then transform it into something way outside of my/our expectations. I can see Phoebe’s hand so intricately a part of this creative scenario. I actually believe in this moment that Phoebe has made this one. I am not filled with sadness, not even appreciation, I may be too tired to feel anything on one level, but as I watch this bundle mysteriously move in the silent afternoon, not ever knowing who really made it, nor does that even matter, but knowing that actually Phoebe has made it and in this moment as I turn a complete 360 degrees and see all these red orbs like floating space ships on a vast ocean of green vermillion, orange sparks shooting out of the western sky and perfect robin egg blue resting easy in the east, I am feeling Phoebe complete and perfect. She is so here. In my life my greatest joy would be to give Phoebe a project and then see how she made it hers, she had a beautiful fingerprint on things. Now I can say this with all my heart— she has a beautiful fingerprint on everything. there are some down by the fence, some hanging over where the alters were, some in the Oaks, some hanging by inches of string, some hanging by meters, some you can see and some we will never see, some are just red bundles they way I explained and some have been transformed into intricate sculptures with bouquets of flowers, stalks of lavender, sticks and feathers tied around them. But I am stopped in my tracks as I head closer to my appointed nap-- one bundle catching my eye. It has its red fabric of secret sacred ingredients but the string is a macramé of knots and weavings encasing all my favorite things-- it has the obsidian, a holey (with hole) sea shell, a piece of abalone, Moss from the madrone alter, tiny yellow flowers that were growing near the olive tree alters. The knots are tied carefully and patiently. I remember showing some of the girls earlier in the day; “you do it like this 4x4 square of this red fabric drop some of these goodies in it, tie with the string, do it with intention and spirit and then go tie it in a branch or spot somewhere. I won’t have time today so will you help others and show them how?” I say this glib and rushed (my usual personality) they nod and say sure…. So I am looking at this one in particular and I am seeing Phoebe complete and
I get to my resting spot. I’ve sat here plenty of times this year. What a day. What a week. What a year. What a life. Questions. Statements. I think back on what Henry told me on our way back from the Beach on Tuesday. As still as it is now, it was windy this day. So windy. Howling. A Monday a year ago it was this windy. None of us are saying that, but we all know this. We expected this! We had decided to have this day be just the family and Phoebe’s closest friends. Fifteen of us to head out to the beach. Drew, Henry and I visited numerous beaches for this day, but now the wind is changing everything. I grab Henry and Max and say we got to get out to the coast early this wind is too much. Seriously, as we got to the beach is blowing way over 60 mph. Waves would hit rocks and spray 50 feet into the air. Open the doors of your car carefully or they will blow off their hinges. The ocean was one giant frothing white cap. Driving on hwy one between goat rock and Bodega Bay I suddenly see something out the corner of my eye, a small sheltered cove. I’ve never been here before. We drive back and park the car. Henry gets out an actually falls over. Of course he turns it into a game and makes his sweatshirt a sail and leans into the wind at a precarious angle. Look Dad! But down at the beach somehow it is barely windy. This may be the only comfortable spot on the entire coast as far as I could tell. The wind is actually blowing up. So we spend the day in this little nook. Drew brings poetry and string and she ties our arms and linked together we say prayers and thoughts and tie bracelets. (Good work Drew!) We paint a rock gold, tell stories, beach comb, lay in the sun, hang out eating sandwiches and cuties. Serious but laughing. We have been blessed with a perfect day in the middle of a torrential windstorm. Later, as I talk to my family which is scattered down the coast, they all report that it was also record winds in San Luis Obispo, Newport Beach and San Diego. As we drive home it is just Henry and I. We are driving quietly and he turns to me and says, “You know dad, I feel really good right now. That was not depressing at all.” The car is buffeted by the wind. If you ask a teenager a question you will usually get a grunt, a one word answer, a shrug or more often a confused look with an attached-- whuutt? Kids are like raising cats if you try to pick them up bring them to you they
flee, but wait and be attentive they will eventually come over, settle in and purr in the lap of who you are. “ya know your right, that was actually a fun day wasn’t it?” I say. “That was a lot better than I thought it would be.” “Yeah, this entire year has been like that—it’s the moments before, the days of anticipation that are the hardest. Anticipating Christmas, Birthdays, but man, this marking of the year end was the hardest of all.” I pause for a moment reflecting on this year, this year of firsts. “but when we’re all together these moments are actually beautiful.” There is a pause in the conversation. After a while Henry says, “You know Dad, I’m not really sure how I believe in spirit we talked about at the beach, I’m not sure how I see it or feel it.” “yeah?” “ya know for me, I think it’s like we each are carrying a bit of Phoebe’s sprit with us. Like she is a part in me and you. When we are together as a group I really feel that strongly. It’s like we bring all our pieces together and we can feel her whole.” The cat has just purred in my lap. “Jeez Hen—that says it better than anything I’ve ever heard. Thank you for saying that.” In a relaxed silence we head home. Back at Drew’s Jack is making curry for the evening. Jack is the designated chef and speaks and administers through his cooking. How many meals he has prepared with his tough love spices that will bite your tongue off but always simmered for hours with his heart and affection for Phoebe that fills much more than your stomach. It is not easy being a stepparent in all of this. The deepest grief is not just for Phoebe’s mom and dad but also the others who have cared for and lived with her. I have gone into this so deeply and obviously so has Drew—but without Jack and Pam to help us while at the same time nurturing and healing their own grief we would be a family still lost at sea. Pam has been the tenacious and beautiful glue that holds our house in Marin together. Jack, (and don’t forget the bodhisattva dog Artie he gave Drew), have been the Gorilla glue that holds the Petaluma fort together. (Thank you Pam and Jack). And then in this world of thankfulness I have to go around the
circle and there are my children, Henry, Jordan and Max and the amazing wonderful friends they have brought into our home; Then there are Phoebe’s amazing supportive friends that are now part of our family; The Bests who have offered the support of their family and these ancient trees and sacred mountain top where we sit and gather; our families, the grandparents and our brothers and sisters; these amazing people in our communities around Petaluma/San Anselmo/Fairfax/Bolinas/San Francicso who have given us so much love and support; the thoughtful/ wise/healers/teachers that have gracefully entered our lives and hold our loss with so much empathy, compassion and wisdom—Kenny, Jack Kornfield, Hospice, Drew’s therapist and so many more. As I sit on the wooden perch remembering all of this-- thinking of all these people, I am overwhelmed, become teary. I have a tattoo from a dream where Phoebe wakes me up saying Be Thankful, Be Thankful. During this year I have cried many times but the place the tears come from the most is this place of amazed appreciation; overwhelmed by the generosity of spirit and love that people are willing to give. I have my pillow and pad in my arms, the sun is a few inches from the western hills, the trees are back-lit like a neon sign in I have one picture from that day that hangs in my head like one of those prayer bundles tied in the trees. This picture is in the forefront of my mind at this moment. It is the end of Tuesday night, April 14th, at Drew’s and exhausted I head out to the car to leave. Jordan and her boyfriend Alex have to go back in the house to use the bathroom so I’m sitting in my idling car waiting. I suddenly get an incredibly thirst and
an uncontrollable urge to drink water but I fight it off as I don’t want to go back inside the house. As I make that resolution, I get a powerful sneezing attack that shakes my bones and knock a bunch of snot loose. Okay that’s it and I head back in the house to take care of these bodily functions. In the kitchen I get a strange urge to look out into the backyard again. At this moment Garret is just starting to sing his song near the fire. SONG NAME HERE. This song has somehow come to mark the bittersweet love that is held in our hearts. Garret sings it with such beauty and emotion it pulls all the strings of sorrow and loss but also because of its sentiment and musical beauty gives you a shudder of appreciation, inspiration and thankfulness. It is a paradox that holds all these moments together. And as the zen monk says: “If it is not a paradox, it is not true.” Garret is singing. Drew is by the fire; Pete is quietly sobbing and puts his head on Drew’s knee; Mellissa and Alex and some of the Scarlet Boys (they’re Phoebe’s girls) are lying in each other’s arms on the bed by what used to be Phoebe’s room and is now Henry’s; Henry and Jessie have their arms around each other and Jessie is kind of singing, Richie and Caitlen are sitting on a bench, Will is strumming a guitar. There are groups of Phoebe’s friends scattered around the yard and the song binds everyone together like that string Drew tied around our wrists earlier in the day. It is a profoundly moving and touching moment-- it is clear to me why I was made to leave the car. Henry is so right and there are all the pieces of her spirit—as a whole. Holy. I look at my cell phone for the time and it is a few moments past midnight. I wake up the next morning and there is a flash in my mind, like a photograph being taken
of the last thing I dreamed. The photo is exactly how I described-- with all these beautiful friends and family, but this time, Phoebe is wearing the stripped dress (the one she has on in the beekeeper show) and she is beaming with a giant happy smile in the middle of it all. I am thinking of this smile and Phoebe’s grace as I unroll the pad, take off my shoes and strip down to my boxers. Oh get comfortable. You deserve this moment. Yes I do. It was an incredible day in the olive orchard. Maybe 75 people, blankets and food, guitars and drums, lots of cute babies and small children. Everyone seemed so comfortable and happy. Saturday, April 18th and this has to be the nicest day so far this year. There has to be one day when the grass is at it’s greenest and the flowers are their peak. I am certain that this year we can mark the 18th on the calendar as that day. Even with Phoebe’s smile in my mind, the red floating orbs in the background, the sun setting in the foreground, my body is beginning to be the stronger force. You rest now. Nap. The day was amazing. I was able to speak in front of these wonderful people who I now love and adore. A year ago I had to stand in front of this group but a bit larger with all the family here. Oh what chaos and agony to think back on that day. I can’t believe I had the strength to do that. Hardly seems like I was even there. Then there was the Phoenix theatre, standing on stage singing my heart out and talking to a standing room only crowd. They
tell me it was the most people ever to be in that theatre on a Sunday afternoon. Over 800 people they say. But today was different. I was happy standing up there. I was excited to talk. No anxiety or stress. Phoebe leaving this world is the shock of my life. I will ask to the day I die-why me why me why her why her? Those are questions that can never be answered. This is that paradox thing-- because what is fundamentally true and what can be answered is that life is only about living and dying. I can now use the word dying and I can now use the word living and I can say that I am only beginning to understand what that really means. This is the journey now. I can say with all my heart that the mystery of this journey is a gift because it is totally surrounded by my love for Phoebe and her love for us. So this time as I am standing in front of this beautiful group of people, my heart just opens and the words that I want to say just pour out. It’s like a basketball player who can’t miss a basket, they call it playing in the zone, the hoop is like 3 feet wide. It was like that. I could see the words and ideas unraveling in front of me 15 minutes at a time. I could look each person in the eye as I spoke about the sacred elements of this mountain top, the native American Miwok who lived here long before us and used this spot as their creation stories; could look at one of the toddlers as I told about the olive trees being 120 years old; could look at Jordan and say that Phoebe’s
Those concentric waves of water finally reaching the shore and their invisible force mysteriously moving a blade of grass or that red prayer tie hanging on a string.
legacy is a gift, could look right at max and say those rocks in the creek are 9 million years old, could look at Drew and Jack and say that this moment is a gift; could look at Pam and say she is here now; I could look at Henry and say when you feel Goosebumps look down at that blade of grass and see a miracle; I could look at Stella and say there are miracles everywhere; I could look at everyone at once and tell them what Henry said about us all being connected by Phoebe’s spirit. There was no ego of trying to sound smart or funny or saintly or profound. There was something that needed to be said, needed to be felt. Writing these entry’s have given me a depth of understanding that far exceeds my intellectual, writing or oratory skills…. I sincerely believe that Phoebe has been an integral part of my healing and learning, I believe she is with me when I write this; is with me when I stand on that hill under those great and now familiar olive trees and tell everyone we are living in a miracle. Those concentric waves of water finally reaching the shore and their invisible force mysteriously moving a blade of grass or that red prayer tie hanging on a string. Goosebumps and then look down. Sleep is close. I reach into my pants and pull out a small picture of Phoebe on a heart. It is weathered and the heart is in two pieces, there is a bit of leather thong still attached but the picture is still clear. Drew
gave me this last spring and I lost it a few hours later while I was checking on the bees. The leather thong just came untied. Sad I lost it, but eventually forgot all about it. In the late afternoon Lili comes walking up the hill. I am there with a camera and taking a picture of her. She says, “look what I found.” She is holding the amulet in her hand. It is stuck to a rock. Phoebe smiling. “Oh my god” I exclaim, “where’d you find that?” “On the ground. You said when you feel a chill look down. There it was.” She hands it to me. Drew walks up and says “How can you still see it? I wore mine in the shower and it was destroyed. How did this make it through the entire winter?” And with that I fall into a deep sleep wondering what mystery still waits, what dreams, what animal will find me here snoring? When I finally wake it is almost dark. There is a baby lizard, not more than 3 inches long, just staring at me. We are both thinking the same thing-- What a day. But I’m also thinking-- Thank you. Thank you. house.
The next day there is a bee swarm in the Palm tree at Drew’s
Photos by Jack Haye Front & Back Cover Photos by Tod Walker