August 14th, 2009:
Next time I go away for a few days, I will be explicit about when I leave and when I return. It was both touching and startling to return home from Portland last night to numerous messages from people wondering if I had moved deeper into my illness. I'd been on a tear with the blog at the beginning of the month and then, with no big warning, the postings stopped. Ten days of silence after a lot of loquacity. Yes, I am fine. Yes, I was out of town. No, I don't have a laptop, and I didn't post any entries while I was on vacation. Thanks to all you you--those of you who expressed your concern, and those of you who knew that I was away from my computer.
As several of you requested, there will be a formal handover of the blog at some point when my ability to post does degrade and evaporate. I would like for you to have continuous updates about my health. However, I hope that giving this site to another writer is a long way off.
Although I'll say more about Portland and the many highlights of the visit, I would like to summarize the trip now by saying that I flew North to say good bye to all my friends up there. People I'd known since grade school, my Dad and little Willem who is not yet two years old. I thought it would be hard to see everyone for the last time, but I didn't want to shirk the responsibility. One thing I have learned from almost 30 years of end-of-life care is how to say goodbye. However, after a few days, it became clear to me that this was not the farewell tour. Rather to my surprise, I knew with increasing certainty that I would have at least one more trip in late September or in October. I could be wrong, but my certainty was such that I told several people--my Dad, my friend Jolly, Willem's parents--that I would be back. I felt like I could make that commitment. What a lovely surprise!
And now, for a wonderful vignette from the beginning of the trip while I was flying North and looking out of the window of the airplane onto the slopes of Mt. Shasta. As I stared down onto the snow fields and remaining glaciers, I remembered back to August 24th 1987. I had gone to stay in Mt. Shasta City with a meditation group I belonged to at that time. We had traveled to the mountain to celebrate the Harmonic Convergence, and we were there with hundreds of other New Age types, hippies, visionaries and others willing to harmonize. On the day of the convergence, over breakfast, we decided to climb the mountain. By 10 a.m. we had set out in our tennis shoes, driven to the top of the ski valley parking lot and started on the trail head to the summit. We kept a steady climbing pace, stopping for lunch and then continuing upward with remarkable determination.
At around 3 in the afternoon, we reached an enormous ledge covered with huge boulders that had melted out of glaciers. To go further would have required climbing gear which none of us had. Although we were certainly light-hearted, we weren't foolish. We accepted that we'd climbed as high as we could. We decided to have a siesta and then start our descent. Quickly, we all found places to nap for a bit. My choice was a huge rock with a chaise-like curve to rest in. I climbed aboard and promptly fell into a deep sleep.
I awoke in a state of total bliss, staring into cloudless blue sky and permeated with knowing that throughout the universe, everything was love. Love. Just love. Everything that had form or space between form held love and was love. I knew this was absolutely true, and I would guess the experience lasted for several seconds. It wasn't long. But it was enough. And then, particulars started to press onto me. I could see the edge of my visual field. I realized I was looking at the sky with my eyes. That I was lying on a large rock. That there was wind. And birds in the air. And arms that I could prop myself up with. Slowly, I came back into my body's awareness, but without loosing the certainty of what I had just experienced.
We assembled. All of us had felt something extraordinary during that rest time. We gathered into a circle, gave thanks as a group and started our descent. Flying over Mt. Shasta last Saturday, I looked for the shelf of rock on the West side of the mountain, the platform where I had received the most inspired awareness of my life. Couldn't find it from the airplane window. No matter. It was fine to have reconnected with that pivotal event in my life as the plane continued on to Portland.