Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Takin' a Break

I've decided not to post for awhile; it might be a few days or it could be longer.

A funny, family doc from Texas once said there are basically two negative emotions: "sad and pissed". Right now I'm 5 percent sad and 95 percent pissed. I don't want to flood these pages with caustic vitriol so will return when I am beyond this crossroads. This too shall pass, or so they say. Right now I am not convinced but will likely crawl back to these pages admitting that this is an essential and undeniable truth.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hospital Rounds

As a doctor, there are certain things I can do. There are other things I cannot do and I've come to accept my limitations, particularly the emotional limitations. Doctoring is another form of care giving. Yesterday, the balance favored the do-able as I made my way through 4 1/2 hours of hospital rounds on call. My goal is always to complete whatever the tasks may be each day and most of the time I am able. But, on Sunday, emotion (mine) left me paralyzed to respond in a positive way to a particularly sad and hopeless situation. All I wanted to do was to remove myself as quickly as possible from the scene, to let someone else take on this responsibility. Fortunately there was back-up.

Doctoring is many faceted. Sometimes we are called to laugh and joke. Sometimes we are called to empathize and emote with a difficult, frustrating situation. Many times we are asked to comfort, to explain, to translate the foreign language of medicine into understandable concepts. Many times we must put on the diagnostic cap and think hard about what's going on, to explore the dilemma and to weed through the possibilities logically. All of these I could manage yesterday. I recall examples of each role as I made my way through 12 patients.

The sweetest experience was my interaction with a man who was miserably ill on Saturday and so much improved Sunday. He was able to share with me that he wanted his "life back" because he was so proud of his 26 year old daughter and hoped to celebrate her successes, belatedly. She recently graduated from Harvard, receiving some sort of advanced degree and now heads on to D.C. to work for the F.B.I. I could feel his pride; he said she was "the light" in his life. He was bummed that he missed out on her graduation.

What I could not do today was face the wife of a man suffering with the most evil and pernicious illness that I know (diabetes and renal failure), whose prognosis is so dismal that it's unlikely he will live more than another few months. The major decision about continuing or discontinuing life lengthening dialysis treatments when his quality of life is so marginal was the theme for the day. Who can define what is acceptable quality of life? I would say the decision belongs to the patient but he is not in the position to make choices like this right now. His wife feels like she is in the hot seat, looking for guidance, and in so much emotional pain that her tears and inner turmoil were so acute, rough edged, and raw that I could offer little. This is familiar territory to me; how many dozens of times have I had this conversation with people and offered myself to them? Today I could not sit with this pain and make sense of it, even when the need was so great.

Why? Because I have have been witness to so much emotional pain with my parents and experience first hand the bitter pill that life spits out when loved ones face the last months/years of their lives. We ask the same questions about quality of life and wonder, second guess, and blindly move ahead never confident that the choices are right or sensible or if they'll bring any relief to the pain. We are impotent to "fix" any of this and likewise my experience with this man and his wife today. He didn't need my input; she did. Unfortunately, I could offer no encouragement, ideas, comfort, or support. There was literally no fuel in the tank. One might think that by going through a related process personally, I might be in the position to render higher level support, a "been there, done that support". Not. I was empty, exhausted, and had nothing to give. Fortunately, there was no need for an urgent decision but she could have used some guidance, even a tender hug. I felt sorry that the wisdom of my experience was not available to me; my responses were lifeless and empty. I left this work for my colleague to handle when he returns on Monday. Wimpy? Perhaps. Necessary? Yes.

I was 90 percent doctor yesterday and 100 percent human. That's OK. Although I would have liked to assuage this woman's tears and her anguish, I know that I did all I could do in those moments. It was my best and it has to be enough. She and I will both make it through to the other side. Eventually. We both are in pain and we are both (only) human.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Safe

Safe

All she ever wanted was to be safe.
An elusive place, found intermittently
when least expected, impossible to design,
Refractory to control.
The prized nugget, often the purpose to living.
Comfort and assurance.
Peace and restful sleep.
Living backwards, noting that what had passed was safe.
Rejoicing in retrospect that life was full; fun.
The moment of now uncertain, only perhaps safe.
Tormented by dread of future loss, unsafe territory looming.
Always.

What is safe? Depends.
So little of it comes from the interior landscape,
although she knows this is the only place where safe resides.
External factors and desire for control over a restless,
moving shoreline that defies comfort,
Even in the beauty of its unpredictability,
the breath of moments, one after another.
A consuming battle to the end of life, terminal.
Seeking the peace that passeth all understanding,
Yearning for the safe that resides everywhere and nowhere
A life, incomplete, paralyzed by anticipatory loss
until the precious arms of safe come to welcome her home.


Friday, June 20, 2008

This Doctor Gets It

I'm now reading blogs like crazy; especially medical blogs. I'm hoping to find people of like mind and perhaps get inspired about a "niche" within the blogging world.

Musings of a Distactible Mind
is right on. I especially like Dr. Rob's post on what it's like to be a physician in 2008 entitled Taking Risk. He "gets it" and articulates the points well. His musings explain in large part why I want out and why just moving across the street to another venue is not going to fix the issues. I wish I could conclude, as he does, that it's still worth it to press on. He finds that the balance still swings in favor of his chosen profession. As for me? I don't think so.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Heart Center


Today my "heart center" aches. This is a familiar feeling; due to the physical stretching and opening of the anterior chest that comes with certain yoga poses or with swimming. Usually a good feeling, each breath in and breath out reminds me that the heart chakra (in the case of yoga; pictured to the left as a green flower with twelve petals) opens or, in the case of swimming, that progress comes as I achieve my stride in freestyle.

But today, my weary muscles ache in much the same way but my body feels anything but enlivened and my mind anything but peaceful. The pull in my upper back and the tightness across my chest comes from the repetitious, determined lifting of another for the last 18 hours. Seated to standing, seated to standing, seated to standing. Moving another upwards on an unforgiving gurney, rearranging positions, lifting and bending weight that requires my support.

I have been a caregiver of some sort for decades but only intermittently in the physical realm moving thick, dense weight from place to place. Yet another facet to consider in the totality of rendering care to someone in need, this physical chore takes a toll on the mind as well.

My heart center aches today; a physical manifestation of an emotional state as much as stretched and weary muscles. Like a steady weight pushing me deeper and further out into the unknown fray where nothing is familiar and nothing will stay the same. This, the unpredictable undertow churns with mighty force. I am so tired.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Moving Again

"For every complex problem, there is an answer that is simple, neat, and wrong."

"Life is a constant oscillation between the sharp horns of dilemmas."

by H. L. Mencken


This is how I feel about some of the decisions generated by our "committee of five"** over the last 24 months with regard to the care needs of our aging parents. Mom and Dad are critical members of this committee to be sure but we, as the middle aged children, solid citizens sandwiched between the generations are in the position of power. This responsibility I enjoy not, particularly my fears that the next step still won't be quite right.

Why is it so difficult to find the solution? The answer is simple; much like buying a house (unless fortunate to have the resources to design the project from ground up) you must "settle" for a flaw here, an undesirable feature there for the perceived greater good. There are so many factors to consider; two individuals with different needs, level of social support, location, square footage (becoming smaller with each move), safety, and financial issues. There's bound to be need for compromise but the hope is that the positives outweigh the negatives. We can't be faulted for not trying. We are a tenacious force; searching, weighing options and pressing forward because settling for status quo is not an option. There must be something better out there.

Mom and Dad's time at Crista, in my view, was a "hiccup", an innocently misguided choice that just didn't work. Although we all suffer in the process of another move, it is the two in question who struggle the most as they uproot from the only permanence they know and transition again into the unknown with new faces, routines, and physical surroundings. One has to hope that the wildlife, the view of green, city and mountains, the feeling of home and skilled caretakers who connect and honor these two as revered elders with a lifetime of experiences and wisdom will bring some peace into their lives. They deserve nothing less.

** DVT, DBT, MMH, JT, and KT


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Law and Medicine

Here we are "all happy" and celebrating D's graduation from Law School on Sunday 6/15/08. Less than 24 hours later, D, embroiled in a gruesome 5 week marathon Bar Review course, says that it is nothing less than an all out exhausting study fest. He learned at the first session yesterday that not only is this a lecture hall review course for 4-5 hours Monday through Friday on the U.W. campus but participants are expected to study at home for an additional 7-8 hours; writing and reading. Five days a week would be tough enough but this insanity is 7 days a week from what D heard at orientation yesterday. Oy. That's harder than Law School in full session.

I've learned that the Bar Exam is unique to each U.S. state; in Washington it is entirely essays written over three days. Hence, the emphasis on take home writing assignments that are reviewed and critiqued. D says they were told that if they "do" all this writing, reading, and studying they are basically guaranteed to pass the exam in late July. That's important.

I remember our medical school days. We passed through basic science classes and clinical rotations, and on to the stage to receive our diplomas, the degree M.D. conferred after three years (we were the last 3 year curriculum for U.T. Houston). Then, it was on to internship and residency which were exercises in practical, paid, on the job learning; grueling and long but essential. Gaining experience, we faced a looming, distant qualifying exam in our specialty but there was no "review course" (although there may be now). We studied on our own, took another exam (no essays) and waited a few months for the envelope to arrive with our scores and hopefully our "board certification". For those of us who went on to sub-specialize, another qualifying exam provided a second piece of paper "suitable for framing". This was all over 20 years ago for me.

Of all these framed documents (medical diploma, residency and internship certificates, and two board certifications), the one that means the most to me is the board certification in Internal Medicine. The exam was grueling; 2 days, but no essays. Fill in the dots (a, b, c, d, e and worse yet the a/c, b/d, all of the above, or none of the above potential answers). It was the toughest exam I ever took and made the Nephrology boards seem easy by comparison. Fortunately, I took these exams in the dark ages of the 1980s before the time when board certification came with an expiration date. Nowadays, certification expires in 10 years and a re qualifying exam is required. This is a sensible idea and certainly one that encourages physicians to keep current. But, I'm thankful not to be taking fill in the dot exams (ever again, I hope). Grandfathered (or grand-mothered) in, I don't have to sit for any more of these rites of passage. Mine lasts forever.

I've resigned myself to not seeing D except in passing until after the Bar Exam is over. There are three huge paperback books (like phone books) that sit on our family room table. He's got to get through all these and worse yet, remember all that information. Or, at least remember the concepts and be able to recall from there, the logical progression of thought. I don't envy this process and am thankful that my obligations are entirely different right now. These things, I can do grumbling all the way but they are do-able to be sure.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

M.D., J.D.


Yesterday Denny and Chris donned their graduation caps and gowns and posed together to mark the unusual occurrence of two major rites of passage in the Maher family within the week. Father and son, both recipients of hard earned degrees, make us all very proud. Their "high five" moment
stands in contrast to the whack-0 shot of their feet in the back yard dressed in official regalia from mid calf up. I'm sure they won't like this particular view but it was fun to photograph them together; great chemistry between these two.

And today, Sunday June 15 was Denny's day to be honored as he received his J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law. A grand Father's Day gift as well.

I shot some video of Denny crossing the stage to receive his diploma (below). I know Ed and Virginia, his parents would be so proud to see their son earn the second of two doctoral degrees. Ed always encouraged Denny to go into law but that wasn't in the cards until decades later. I know my Mom and Dad would have loved to see both Chris and Denny receive their diplomas this June and am sorry that it wasn't possible to have them join us for a close up view of the action. Thankfully there are photographs and videos to share.


video

To Dennis Patrick Maher, M.D., J.D. : Congratulations!
Now it's on to the Bar Exam; knock 'em dead!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

20 and 90

This has been a tough week, much like spending time between the proverbial
"rock and a hard place". Just plain stony hard, serious, exasperating, and exhausting. I know the days could be so much worse so I acknowledge that "this" experience is nothing, compared. I'm reminded again that life is so fragile, so precious; Tim Russert's untimely death yesterday of a myocardial infarction and ventricular arrhythmia is a sober acknowledgment that none of us has any guarantee of our next day, or even our next minute. Wishing desperately that I could know this from deep within and not take anything for granted or seek to change everything, bending it my way.

But, sitting in the midst of tiresome, seeming never-ending challenge, life sometimes just doesn't feel good. The phrase, "this too shall pass" is certainly true but lately it seems the good things pass and the not-so-good stick around for awhile, tenaciously attached like an annoying gnat. There must be lessons to be learned from this irritation. I'm thinking the lessons are right before my eyes and perhaps in the form of the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi whose words resonate deeply with me.

Those in my life who are at the extremes of age (20 and 90) tax me mightily. My love for them is endless, unchangeable, forever. Bedrock.

But, the path right now is rugged. Both in the last days have asked me the same question, "Do you think I'm an idiot?" Different contexts but the same question. I pause to wonder; that they both found my inquiries annoying and inappropriate says something about me. I have much to learn and ask for grace. I have no experience; who ever does? We just move along the best we can because each moment is new, untrodden territory.


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

It is in dying to the self that we are born to eternal life.


Saint Francis of Assisi

Friday, June 13, 2008

Poetry Instead

Untitled....

She says she feels "superfluous".
a feeling of worthlessness, of being unnecessary,
needless.

This, spoken when tears and anxieties consume us both
in a quiet room, at night when thoughts become
menacing monsters, unnameable.

In our mutual exhaustion, reaching towards each other
from the opposite ends of generations,
we sit in silence, struggling to voice the next sentence.

We both know the pain of loss, mine as witness to the
ceaseless passage of time, hers as growing knowledge
through tangled threads of consciousness,
that the time for dreams realized has passed.

What then of the choices that belong to her?
What prayers offered to soothe our pain?
What small and simple pleasures to pluck from a tree that
struggles to survive?

She says she wants "to be loved". Who among us
cannot say the same?
To belong: valued, included, and honored for who we are;
this universal longing. Superfluous; never.

I hold her close, I feel the shiver of her shoulders.
"Lord", I whisper to myself, "let me be an instrument of your peace".
And morning eventually comes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hiatus

Hiatus

a break
respite
interlude
space
interval
time away
vacation
holiday
sabbatical
breathing room
retreat
renewal
quiet time
time out
just a moment

Anonymous

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

January to June






No worries here; this tree is just a late bloomer. The brittle leaves of autumn, brown and tenacious clung to lower branches until evicted by the new buds in late spring. The full burst of green held back until early June but this beauty is now lush with the color of summer.

Monday, June 9, 2008

It's All Good










A gut busting Texas BBQ was Chris's request for a graduation party to celebrate the happy events of this past weekend with family and friends. Denny was in charge of selecting, smoking and serving all the meat and preparing the side dishes. I made (or as we say in the South "fixed" the banana pudding and chocolate sheath cake. Denny mowed the front and back lawn late Sunday morning in the only dry interlude we've had in Seattle over the past week. I cleaned the house. As usual, the event was a cooperative adventure, a dance of sorts between Denny and me. We've done this many, many times before and our roles are well defined. He's got this job; I've got that job and somehow it all gets done.

The sun came out just in time for the party. We gathered outside mid-afternoon on Sunday and rejoiced in the warmth of the sun after days and days of rain, wind, grey and cold. June surely shone on our parade yesterday. The food....well, that was outstanding from start to finish. The guests....well, they were company of the highest quality from the youngest, kicking in Jessica's belly all the way up through us oldsters, like Ed Smith (sorry about that Ed). I loved seeing Chris enjoying a Corona, getting his face dunked in whipped cream, and most of all connecting with the friends and family who mean so much to him.

Ya'll had some big ole appetites yesterday; there were slim pickins for leftovers today! Yeah!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Commencement

At around 2:15 PM today Chris walked across the stage at Quest Field, a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Ministerial Studies from Seattle Pacific University. We were high up in the stands watching and even with a zoom lens on my camera, couldn't actually see Chris. Thankfully we brought binoculars. I did get some footage on my camera when they called his name (and his name was pronounced correctly too!).

Here's a few shots from this cold and cloudy but ever so happy day. We felt only a rare sprinkle of rain but were glad to have the coats and gloves for the three plus hour event. It could have been a lot worse considering the weather the last few days.






Congratulations Chris and to all the members of the class of 2008! You did it!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ivy Cutting

This is Graduation Weekend at Seattle Pacific University. Events kicked off today with the 86th annual Ivy Cutting Ceremony. Usually held outside under the towering elms surrounding Tiffany Loop, today's chilling drizzle moved the event inside the Royal Brougham gymnasium on campus. Although we would have preferred to experience this rite of passage in sunshine, the symbolism, the joy and bittersweet of "moving on" for all these young graduates was heartfelt.

The tradition places all the graduates in their caps and gowns surrounding a long length of ivy in the shape of a large oval. At the end of the ceremony, the graduates lift up the length of ivy and specially selected faculty members cut the single woven strand into smaller pieces. Each graduate carries a small bit of ivy cut from the one strand to symbolize that their work as students of SPU is complete and they enter the world with ambition, dreams, and skills for the journey ahead. The ties between "child and parent" are cut. The photo above shows Chris with his mentor, Dr. Ed Smith.

I remember four years ago as Chris matriculated at SPU, a ceremony of welcome in the same Royal Brougham gymnasium placed the young faces of the nascent class of 2008 in the center of the gym floor, this time surround by the SPU faculty in caps and gowns. This marked the start of their journey together, the launch of the four years that would change them all. I thought at the time this was a powerful visual; likewise with today's event.

Graduation is a big deal. It marks an end and a new beginning. This is a time to celebrate and a time to reflect back on how it was for all of us on our big day and what it will be like for those in our family who look ahead to their time to be honored for academic achievements. "Worthy and well qualified", as Dean V. Thompson would say.

Congratulations Chris! Dad, Laura and I will be there to cheer when you cross the stage tomorrow.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

"It Comforts Me"


From Mirriam-Webster on line dictionary

1com·fort
Pronunciation:
\ˈkəm(p)-fərt\
Function:
transitive verb
Etymology:
Middle English, from Anglo-French cunforter, comforter, from Late Latin confortare to strengthen greatly, from Latin com- + fortis strong
Date:
13th century
1 : to give strength and hope to : to cheer
2
: to ease the grief or trouble of : to console

All my adult life, perhaps as far back as my late teenage years, I've been on the receiving end of my Mother's comment, "It comforts me." In fact, I've heard this uttered so many times that it is expected, the norm. I am not the only ear to these three words; I'm fairly certain that my siblings and others in the family recognize this brief and to the point statement as one of her fundamental truths. The sentence serves as a thank you, an acknowledgment to the giver of comfort that the "thing" they have done for her has satisfied a deep need for peace within. (definition #2 above: "to ease the grief or trouble of, to console").

"It comforts me." is usually spoken over the telephone in response to my/our call to report that the journey to wherever was safe and that I/we are fine. "Thank you," she will say, "It comforts me." My Mother is haunted by the specter of loss. She has forever sought relief of her anxieties over loss by waiting, sometimes impatiently and other times with incredible grace, for the phone call that confirms that once again tragedy has been outsmarted and that her loved one(s) is/are safe. Her self admitted "rich imagination" is at once fodder for great story telling but in her case, the source of nightmarish worry.

I have to wonder how my Mother's life might have been different had she known with certainty that she would not outlive her children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren. None of us is ever blessed with this guarantee but for those of us whose days are burdened and oft times paralyzed by the pain of anticipatory loss, the guarantee would symbolize the ultimate freedom. Eagle soaring in the sky freedom. Freed to really live, unencumbered, to risk making a mistake, messing up, or choosing the wrong path; all would then be acceptable in the grand scheme of things.

Why? What does worry and comfort and anticipatory loss have to do with living your best life? Everything. Worry is so time consuming and depleting that freedom from this need for comfort would change everything. Would that we could cut this lesion out with surgical precision and expunge it from our souls forever. For those who worry to excess, the beast itself becomes a balm, a potion, or a mystical antidote to those things most feared. The nonsensical notion that worry can affect the outcome of any situation, change the fates, or move mountains matters little to the worrier who is lost in the addiction.

Lest I be perceived as exposing too much of my Mother's private self for public view, it is really of me that I write. Although I don't use the phrase "It comforts me", my body receives a nourishing, yet temporary fix when I am assured that those I love are safe. And, as I've said before, my talent for defining the issue is solid, the solution (aside from "just get over it") is the challenge.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Graduates

Two in my immediate family earn academic degrees within the next ten days. Chris graduates from Seattle Pacific University with a bachelor's degree in Educational Ministry this weekend and Denny graduates from U.W. School of Law a week later. When Denny entered Law School in the fall 2005, we realized that both he and Chris would celebrate this rite of (academic) passage together in June 2008. The date seemed a long way off at the time. And now we are here, in the moment when they receive much deserved accolades and diplomas to document their achievements. How many fathers and sons experience this rare convergence?

I am so proud of Chris and Denny. They have worked hard for these accomplishments. The road hasn't always been easy but both have persevered and arrived at the place where they will be honored by their respective schools and by loved ones who care deeply about their success and happiness. As my Dad has said countless times as a high school principal introducing graduating senior classes, "They are worthy and well qualified."

To these two most treasured men in my life: Congratulations on a job well done!

I love you!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Paycheck to Paycheck

Laura and I shared a girl's night out Monday evening taking in dinner and Sex and the City (fun movie by the way). True to the HBO series, the movie was punctuated by Carrie Bradshaw's running commentary with her ever familiar phrases like, "I had to wonder...." and "Meanwhile....". I've always liked that about the show; Carrie seems to translate all of life's events into fodder for her writing.

My own "I had to wonder...." thoughts often come to me in the car as I drive, usually on my way to work through downtown city streets. Today was rainy, chilly, misty and my thoughts took me back to the Yoga Weekend. And then, that thought morphed quickly into my walk from car to building yesterday morning. I must have had a quick, light step because a critical care doc walking behind me said, "Good morning, Doctor Kate; you seem quite energetic today". Indeed. I shared that I had spent the weekend at a yoga retreat and he remarked, "Ahhh, no wonder." A few more shared words about how such a treat might re-arrange the stuck, trodden down, rote ways and enliven the spirit (he got it) transpired between us. But then he knowingly mused, "This too shall pass."

Yep this too has passed. Far too quickly the bits of magic from my weekend float away from my grasp and into the archives of my mind resting in the folder entitled "the peace that was". Perhaps they will burst forth again, allowing me to harness the benefits of those days of rejuvenation. I seem to have blown the entire wad in one day. I have to wonder, why do I live from emotional paycheck to emotional paycheck? Why can't I get a decent balance in the account so it doesn't go dry so fast? I already know the answer: the deposits need to keep on coming in even if they are small and more importantly, the withdrawals need to slow way down.

P.S. This is my 200th post on Ahead of the Wave. I'm proud of that. I also know that each post is a deposit of sorts into that account that nourishes my soul.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Yoga Retreat

Three days and two nights sequestered in the woods of Whidbey Island this weekend for a women's yoga retreat offered the chance for renewal of mind and body as well as connection with natural beauty. I signed up and paid for this retreat months ago, before I let myself think too much about the cost or the time commitment. This was clearly the right choice because the hours away were pure tonic; necessary, rejuvenating, and healthy.

The Whidbey Institute, a gorgeous venue for this retreat, provided nourishment in the form of beautiful surroundings and fabulous vegetarian cuisine (I felt virtuous and healthy) as well as cozy accommodations. My little room in the "Farmhouse" was the size of a closet but had everything I needed, including a down comforter and a window with a view of tall pines. The grounds, lush with new spring growth, offered constant invitation with paths leading deep into the woods. Wildlife was abundant, especially birds whose song was near constant, beginning pre-dawn and heard until dusk. The air felt fertile with the promises of spring, fresh and new.

This group of 22 women, guided by our amazing instructor Lee, made a journey together, harnessing the benefits of this most peaceful place. Our yoga practices were the structure around which the other wonderful moments developed; exploration of the grounds, chatting around wooden tables as we fueled our bodies with delicious food, enjoying a sweat in the sauna, a meditative walk through the outdoor labyrinth, a fire at dusk on Saturday evening, and countless other treasured memories. The yoga experience included focus on the second (sacral) and fourth (heart) chakras, pranayama breathing practices (held in the beautiful sanctuary building), guided meditation, asana and luxurious, indulgent shavasana. I'm happy to report that my bum knee was well behaved, helped by a tight ace wrap. I kept up with most of the moves and could sit cross legged for meditation. Aspirin and naprosyn eased the journey. I overheard others saying the same so didn't feel alone with my creaky joints and over-stretched muscles.

The labyrinth was unlike any I have ever walked; rustic, wild. At once disheveled in appearance by tall grasses and weeds, the path led us boldly into the center and back out again. Created from an orderly arrangement of black rocks in the style of the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, the path was covered with wood shavings which invited bare feet. This labyrinth was untamed, sacred, yet playful in its unevenness. Many in our group had never walked a labyrinth and I enjoyed hearing their fresh, new comments. "A metaphor for life"; "All of us walking the same path but in different ways"; "A longer walk than I had thought". All this makes me wonder (again) how I could create my own smaller version in the backyard. I've nurtured this dream for years but have always come up with reasons to talk myself out of any action. I wonder.... I'm especially encouraged by a labyrinth that does not have to be prim, proper and trimmed to be effective. I don't think I'm up for that sort of deliberate maintenance (unless caring for it became a mediation practice of sorts).

My favorite parts of the weekend? I have two. The first was filling a small bag that Lee gave each of us with "ten items from nature". We used this series of ten, tokens plucked from the earth, for a tender meditation Sunday morning in the sanctuary, an exercise that strengthened our awareness of the fundamental connection and interdependence of all things natural. My items were all once living things (no stones). I wasn't sure what to do with this carefully selected group of ten after the weekend retreat; I brought the small bag home with me as a remembrance. One was a fragile brilliant blue robin's egg that I found in two pieces while combing the wilds of the property. Although the egg was my surprise in the group of ten, the simple three leaf clover (now wilted), the moss covered bark, and the group of tiny pine cones were desperately beautiful as well.

My second favorite moment(s) came with the opportunity to listen intently and move as we wished (or not) to Jennifer Berezan's hauntingly gorgeous CD, Returning early Saturday evening. Lying on the hardwood floor of the studio hearing the continuous chant, as recorded in the Oracle Chamber in the Hypogeum in Malta (renowned as a sacred space with impressive acoustics) brought me out of my stillness and into interpretive dance mode. I moved until I could no more and then relaxed back into the floor to the unending chant of "Returning, returning, returning; to the the Mother of us all". This is fodder for another blog; the message resonates deeply.

Transitioning back into my everyday life yesterday afternoon was fairly smooth; it felt a bit odd to drive my car again, to see so many people out and about, doing their own thing, to visit with Mom and Dad and to share in brief what my weekend had been. And today, I head back to work for a few days with the hope that I will carry within my heart the bits of joy, wisdom, peace, and compassion that bubbled forth, a reminder that it takes more than eyes to really "see".

Addendum 6/6/08....

Lee just emailed this photograph of our yoga group taken after the last class and before our final lunch together. We look relaxed, mellow, and restored don't we?