Coming to the end…. from Gayle

Yes, getting to the end of things… the end of the year, the end of my visit (just completed) to my mom in Phoenix, the end of this evening (I should be getting ready for bed instead of being here… ah well), the very recent end of the shortest days of the year… and with all that new beginnings.  But don’t shortchange the poignancy of the “end” of things.  Take the time to appreciate the fleetingness of all things, the opportunity to practice letting go, to be with times of transition and all their (our own)  hope for the future and discomfort at what is lost, or being lost.

So, yeah, I’m waxing poetic, but darn, I don’t have a poem to share.  I looked for a poem, but couldn’t find the right one.  Well, actually I think I did find the right one.  A poem I really love by my friend Jim.  But I need to write him and ask permission.  So, if he gives permission, I promise to share it here with you, soon.  It’s an extraordinary poem about growing old, and ALL that that means.

I just got back from visiting my 91 year old mom, who is in extraordinary shape — for her age.  Her mind is great.  Her body is slowing down, but still  mostly works, minus a little sense of balance and strength.  My dad died 2 1/2 years ago, and she’s been living alone since then.  We spent this last week looking at places where “active seniors” can move to be with other people, have more activities, more community, share meals together (without having to cook their own, and shop for them).  We visited 3 different “campuses” of “independent, active” living communities — which were different in terms of class (middle vs upper middle) and religious (secular vs christian).  The apartments, the food, the grounds, the activities, the sense of community and friendliness of the people, and more, all needed to be taken into account, not to mention the cost.  It was slightly dizzying.  We were on a steep learning curve as it seems the move may be imminent, not because she Has To, but because it’s seeming like it might be the “right” thing to do.  Sometimes I felt optimistic; sometimes I could feel my heart breaking.  Was it empathy or some degree of unhealthy merging?  Guilt?  Oy!  So many feelings.  My own sense of loss!  The family home the site of So Many family gatherings and family memorabilia for the last 35 years.  My mom was/is a trooper, and for the most part hid her pain at her impending loss bravely, perhaps stoically.  Of course, with the end of living in this home, full of the memories of her beloved husband and family, there will also be the beginning of living in a place that just might fulfill the needs she currently has for companionship, friendships, all kinds of activities she can’t and/or doesn’t do at home.

While I find all the stages of life, including old age and death  compelling, fascinating, etc. my mom is not one to enjoy a conversation about aging and death.  We met with and talked with so many elders, some whom my mother recognized from 60 years ago.   I wondered at their courage too, and wondered about their life stories.  Mostly they talked about how much they loved living in these “independent” communities, and how they hoped my mom would join them.

I want there to be a poem  to share with you.   My heart is aching, and breaking, and thrumming….  I’ll ask my friend Jim.  And if any of you have some poems or thoughts to share, I’d welcome that too.

I don’t even have a picture of the places we looked at to share with you.  But I do have a picture of a palm tree and an orange tree that I took one day on a walk around the block where my mom currently lives.  It’s not where I grew up, but I did grow up in Phoenix, and I can tell you that Phoenix was all about palm trees and orange trees.  To this day, orange blossoms are my very favorite scent in the world.

Sending you love and best wishes for a fabulous, happy, serene, or frolicking end of the year, and best wishes for a happy, fabulous, serene, and frolicking year to come!  May all beings be peaceful and happy, and care for one another with the one great heart of the world!

♥   Gayle


Happy Holidays from Gayle…..

Hi everyone,

Visiting my mom and other family in my hometown, Phoenix, Arizona.  Here’s a poem I just wrote as I sit here in the local Starbuck’s, the morning after….

Yesterday Christmas in Phoenix

Today hot chocolate at Starbuck’s

Intersection of “Muebleria del Sol”, Chevron, Big Lots, and Circle K

Observing life on the road

Sun and shadow

People looking for caffeine, sugar, some kind of happiness

Six days ’til next year.

A million possibilities.

Wishing you and all beings ease, happiness, peace, freedom.

♥   Gayle

More cut-ups!

…this time from Montserrat Wassam.    Montserrat created this first poem at our women’s KM meeting a couple of weeks ago.


Chocolate almond midnight

Thursday morning gift

our ever-changing experience of body and breath

the child’s fear, essentially of death

Possibilities of loving wisely and well,

Here it is, the secret that saved my life

And then, inspired by our evening of Cut Ups, Montserrat created  several more.  Here’s  one of them.  The picture of Martin Luther King Jr. is the front of the card.  The second image is the inside of the card.  Brava Montserrat!


from Mark Coleman…

Here is a poem I wrote at sunrise while on  a writing retreat at one of my favorite wilderness retreat centers, Vallecitos Mountain Ranch in New Mexico




Morning Song

It begins with a single finch

Followed by the sound of

Chickadees and blackbirds.

Then comes the hammering

Of woodpecker

Bearing down into heartwood,

And boisterous geese

Descending like planes

Into cold ponds.

Until a unison of song

Heralds the new day.

I want everyday to be like this,

Where I feel dawn

Rise up in my body

And sunrise in my heart

Warming fingertips

And crisp frosted leaves.

Where early rays

Turn still aspen trees

Into pillars of light,

So luminous,

They transcend

Their rootedness.

While the silent stars

Make way for this day

Teem with possibility,

Reminding me,

I too can paint the canvas

Of this life

With confident strokes

And usher in

Some new song of delight.

Cut Ups

Hi!    Gayle here.

My women’s Kalyana Mitta group (spiritual friend group) that started last February is about to complete our first book, “A big new free happy unusual life” by Nina Wise.  The subtitle is “self-expression and spiritual practice for those who have time for neither”.  We gather twice a month  and each meeting we do one or two practices described in Nina’s book.  This last week we did a practice (on p 211) called “Cut Ups”.

The instructions were to “Reach into your paper recycling bin, grab a piece at random and cut or tear it up into small pieces…     Select five or six of the pieces that contain phrases you find of interest and build a sequence, a poem.”

We also looked at, and read, the practice of Generosity of p. 221, and made our “cut up” poems as cards with the intention to gift it to someone who has been important in our life this past year.

Using many of the various practices ( writing, drawing, vocalizing, movement, sculpture, etc) in Nina’s book has been stimulating, fun, sometimes challenging, always engaging.  Doing these practices as a group, as well as meditating and chanting together, checking in, sharing snacks, etc.  has helped us to create a group that is energetic, supportive, collaborative, enlivening and compassionate.

We wanted to share with you the results of our latest practice “Cut Ups”.  We hope you enjoy them.  and ps.  Many thanks to Nina Wise for her glorious book!

windchime of leaves, fellowship of dawn and dusk

rust is a very slow fire,

small wonder we personalized the night

aperture of the mind widens

deer slouch through

then everything shines

—-Colleen Lookingbill



In each of us, there is a young, suffering child.

That inability to see is a kind of ignorance.

sustain confusion and habitual patterns

come home to ourselves

This is the energy  —  something new.

the never-ending energy of our basic goodness

—-Barbara Redfield



seeds in my hands

a thousand years of profound insights

doesn’t make life perfect; it doesn’t make

us immortal;

if I went to a certain park across

the bridge.  The stuff of magic and miracles,

away like two hooded fairies.

—-Jennifer Scaff King



Now that you know what you know, there’s no turning back.

Stop and swear, pound the steering wheel,

Take at least two deep breaths.

Name that feeling.

Eat a rainbow.

Can it really be this simple?

—-Deb Garland

I was just in time to see

the faces of the people in your lifesacred but essential

human beings.

When you can see

the messages

jutting over the hill of trees,

our task

will also be

good for our souls.

—- Maximilienne Ewait



Activating our Life

come together to form something gorgeous;interdependent;

living lightly on the earth;

there is an open moment in history where

glowing with the light that suffuses us

we are transparent to transcendence.

—-Freidel Cohen



I drop the labels and allow things to be as they are

wool, water, feathers, and dreams.

Just this moment, this life

promise of papaya and mango

Often I burst out laughing

I move to my pillow, a down-puff extravagance

—-Gayle Markow



express yourself

born with 100 billion brain cells

access “inner experts”

gratitude and an abiding zest

ebullience in your bones

grow your own

—-Barbara Patinkin


from Gayle… a reflection and a poem…

Feeling lucky.  There’s a lot of poetry showing up in my life these days.  One way is a class I joined a couple of months ago at the Bernal Heights Public Library, called OWL, for Older Writers Laboratory.  I mentioned this group in my Nov. 30th response to Lorene.    My friend Anita’s been going for awhile and told me about it.  I’m really glad I started going.  Though more people are involved, approximately 12-22  show up on any given Monday afternoon. A couple of men, the rest women, mostly in their 60s and 70s. For the first hour, a handful of people – who wish to – read their poems and get feedback.  The second hour is devoted to creating new or revising old poems with a variety of skillful “prompts” from the teacher.

The poem I’m sharing with you today I wrote a couple of weeks ago after one of these classes.  Last Monday was a “revision” day, so I worked on the poem further.  Is it ready to be “born” into the light of day (read — cyberday)?  I don’t know.  I have qualms, judgements, comparing mind.  I do have a perfectionist streak in me that goes along quite nicely with a judging mind.  I want to advise against it.  If you have a choice.

In the meantime, I get to keep practicing kindness and compassion, and being in community.  I hope you’ll consider participating in our Dharma Road community with a poem of your own and/or some responses to others’.

Here is my poem:

On Listening to  Good Poems

Though a clever turn of phrase can spark my admiration,

cleverness is not what I long for…

Rather…     deeper listening,

a certain naked defenselessness, vulnerable, powerful

Simply this…

a single blade of grass pushing through cement

Aware… of its place in this universe without remorse or

need for greater significance

On comparing… the blade of grass…  small,

though larger than viruses, bacteria, or protozoa

vibrant green, spiked with definitive borders

On reflection…  a life span of…   what?       hours?        days?

Declaring itself arrived no matter the boot heel about to land.

What are the odds of any of it?

A tiny blade of grass pushing through cement

wondrous, no less, perhaps more than the cleverest king, or poet

And yet… when a person speaks or writes words that pierce

the protective shield of our everyday armor

and moves our heart/mind into a shared appreciation of the tiniest —



The mind quiets

The heart opens

Longing for some thing else ceases

And…    joy ascends

♥   Gayle