November 8th

The 8th of November has not been very kind to me, or others, the past couple of years.

On November 8, 2018, a fire ripped through our town, our homes, and our hearts destroying everything in Paradise, California and neighboring communities. Eighty-five people died that day. For a few hours on that day, I had no problem staying in the so-called “here and now.” Focusing on your survival will do that.

On November 8, 2019 I went into the emergency room with a little stomachache. I went in because I didn’t want to put my family through what I did to them the previous year. Although, I “knew” it was nothing to be concerned about, I didn’t want to downplay it for my family’s sake. When I was referred to the surgeon, much to my surprise, he told me I had about a day to live if I didn’t have surgery for a blocked intestine. Nine days later I got out of the hospital after a few ups and one really big down and I had to stay off of work for two and half more months to recover from the removal of 12” of the small but quite long intestine.

A week or so after the fire, I was walking outside and a beautiful leaf came dancing, fluttering in the breeze, almost touching my nose on its way to the earth. I just started laughing at the sheer joy of the moment. One leaf, out of billions of leaves, brought pure joy to my heart. Losing everything you have worked your whole life for brings a different perspective to common moments as you realize there are no common moments, each one is unique.

While in the hospital, I was constantly surrounded by the love of family and friends. A nurse told me the fastest way out of the hospital was to walk a lot. So I walked a lot. One night on my stroll, I came across a family in the surgery unit’s family waiting room and I saw the most beautiful little child. I took my friend down the hall to see this beautiful little boy sitting on his parents’ lap. I suppose painkillers will do this to a fellow. I could see the parents were a bit uncomfortable with this attention from a patient, but dammit that child was beautiful and it wasn’t the drugs. You just see things differently. That child was like that leaf. It was a moment of joy.

When I came home after the hospital stay, I was very weak. The first thing I did though was sit outside and a flock of birds flew by me, darting and dashing in some unrecognizable to me but certainly an orderly pattern for the birds, and they flew with such a seemingly abandonment of concerns. They were so “into it” – that of being a bird. I laughed out loud and I was so grateful to watch what I always took for granted.

On November 8, 2020, as the sun set and the clouds turned yellow, then orange, then blue, and then purple, I sat again out back behind our house. The wind was stronger than a breeze but it is was cleansing. I just let the moment wash over me. I was grateful. The cycle of death and resurrection happens over and over in our daily lives. It seems to be embedded in all things: Our breath, in and out. The sunrise, the sunset. Ocean waves, the songs of birds and stars. The budding springtime’s leaf and the colors of autumn.

No wonder that leaf was dancing on its way back to earth. It knew much more than I did. It was celebrating.

So November 8th, – Thank You. You have taught me that from loss comes great love. From suffering, comes greater understanding. To rise up, one must first fall down.