Friday’s Passing Fancy/Poem: We All Die of Something

Ruby red, small fisted, dauntless royal heart,

heart that has born me up, loaned me a life.

This heart that runs of its own accord,

with daily rescues, with my will as cohort.

How it keeps thumping, pushing,

sweet talking despite time or errors, passions

wearing out me out, the cumulative years

like sand falling, driven against stone,

and wind gnarling the once green tree.

 

I call out to it even as it labors,

don’t let me down, dance me just so,

grow old at home behind the light armor

of ribs with a proprietary peace.

And still it heeds my pleas.

I carry it into the ruins of the world,

into dangers of ordinary living,

and tentative runs with silver hair flying, on walks

with legs that push until my breath shortens,

squeezes me to a stop. I count the seconds,

eyes widely watering, back to passersby

until we can go on, panting,

dash through tender or cutting rains,

under sun’s umbrella, in moonlight’s whisper

and the trees, who know everything.

You feel with me as they wave, rivers flash,

and other creatures call.

You feel because I feel. Or is it

the other way around, my friend?

 

The rest we manage, too, madcap

mysteries and random muttering spiked

with bolts of anger and deep weeping wells,

sorts of things few might admit but we cannot deny.

We are comrades, more than this,

confessor and confessed,

body and soul.

 

So today when the one (who 20 years ago

salvaged us) intones with smile and handshake

doing well once more, keep up the great work,

stop worrying because you know

we all die of something-

I lift you, my heart, out into the world

feeling more brave and sturdy but this, too:

five more years, ten more years. Please.

When all that exists for us is this moment,

old heart, so let us know the glory of it.

the golden romance of another reprieve.

Good heart, it only comes to this, 

that we shall live and live and pass as one

 

Young or Older, We are Carried Forward

Columbia Gorge, Cascade Locks, misc 098
All photographs by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

This pictorial post is about two things: being alive and thank God for it; and my youngest daughter celebrating her birthday. It’s the 37th one for her today. Yes, how swift is time’s passing…and how wonderful to have A. in our lives more since she and her husband moved from the Monterey-Carmel area (California) back to Portland (Oregon). I think it brave of her to leave a good position in order to live, play and further her career in the Northwest, closer to family.

I am allowed to post a few pictures of her that are already public, taken during her work at Sunset Center in Carmel-by-the Sea. It could seem a bit glamorous at times! It is in a performing arts center; she worked in management doing publicity/marketing and community/educational development. Arts management/administration remains her line of work.

But first, an old, not too clear “actual snapshot” of her: the summer before kindergarten, age 4 and a half. She was a tiny gal for a few years due to a medical condition, but she had a large store of verve and curiosity and could charm a dour stranger in the grocery, a passerby on the street. That vivacious spirit remains in full force.

At that time we lived in a spacious, enjoyable A-frame house on a lovely acre in Tennessee. There remain some good recollections of the seven of us living there despite being Northerners in the South where Confederate flags were yet flown–and likely still are. (I’ve written a post or two on our unusual move to Tennessee–we didn’t live in a house when we first arrived!– if you care to do a search on this blog.)

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On the left, A. is in the center with the wine red dress; on right, giving a speech at an event. A parent cannot foretell exactly what or where one’s children will end up doing or being but I imagined the arts would figure prominently when she was a dancing, singing toddler. Suffice it to say: I am rooting for her, I believe in her and love her dearly. And she believes in and loves her Mom back. Lucky me to have such caring kids (adult kids, that is–sort of forget this reality, some moments).

(I would love to show family pictures, but she prefers more privacy.)

Now for the next topic, if you will bear with my randomness today. It connects to the first half in that my very life is predicated in large part on love of family and others, this beleaguered, breathtaking earth, creative expression and the numinosity of God.

For those readers who may not have read many posts, I manage–like too many–the condition of heart disease. And this past week-end marked the 16th year since my heart lurched and squeezed so hard I could barely breathe, then toppled me to my knees when hiking in the Columbia Gorge. I always make the trek out to Bridal Veil Falls. It is within the historic Gorge that is carved, in large part, by the mighty Columbia River, amid the Cascade Mountains.

Diagnosed with aggressive coronary artery disease at 51, two stent implants saved the day. In time–a year or so–I returned to active engagement in life. I did not hike that area for a few years, however, perhaps out of fear and also due to tricky cardiac rhythms. So it is always a relief to be able to go back now each year, the scene of the event and attendant new challenges. It is not a totally easy hike in to the waterfalls. So I deeply feel the victory in it, a blessing and a sign of hope, a balm for my older but still raring-to-go body. To go out into the world and especially into nature using legs and eyes; nose and ears; mind, heart and soul– this superbly designed vehicle within which we carry ourselves–is such a gift I can barely express its worth to me. I will let the pictures speak.

Columbia Gorge, Cascade Locks, misc 006Columbia Gorge, Cascade Locks, misc 005

My spouse, Marc, and I paused at a viewpoint at Portland Women’s Forum State Park to take in the expansive scenes of Columbia River Gorge. The domed, interior marble-clad building is Vista House, completed in 1918. It sits atop a basalt promontory of Crown Point, approximately 740 feet above the river. The building was designed as a memorial for the pioneers of the 1800s who made their treacherous way across Oregon, hewing trails in the mountainous forests as they went. The haze is due to smoke from wildfires in the Cascade Mountains. It can be blown about everywhere, of course, even into Portland. The Oregon Department of Forestry notes that there have been 754 fires as of this date since January 2017. Lightning strikes have ignited about 28,000 acres;  humans have caused fires on about 5000 acres at this time. This is a lot of acreage scoured by fire; we have had unusually sustained high temperatures in the state this summer, with precious little rain for three months. The dryness is worrisome as we hike in all areas.

Climbing via vehicle on narrow roads to our hiking spots on left; on right, evidence of the extremely dry terrain.

We first stopped at Horsetail Falls, a favorite but partly to escape heat that had followed us into the mountains. Once outdoors and hiking the air was transformed, refreshingly cool.

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Columbia Gorge, Cascade Locks, misc 031

Moving on past several other waterfalls, we arrived at our destination, Bridal Veil Falls and began the descent, then ascent. The slideshow shows our arrival, beginning at the empty bridge. (Marc was caught gazing pensively over a gate at the end of a forestry service road.)

 

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It was a joy to complete this small, private pilgrimage again. At the 15 year (2016) mark and still managing heart disease well enough, I felt like falling to my knees and hands again to “kiss” the good earth in thanksgiving–and did so. This year it was enough to take in the bounties of nature, at peace deep in blood and marrow. We never know when what we love might be impossible to wholly embrace, so it is best to unite one’s self with every good and gracious moment.