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  • a happy, ordinary, middle-aged, suburban woman who paints odd pictures, gardens in a straw hat, lives with the love of her life, is owned by one cat and the ghosts of several others, and walks a little funny 'cause she has a fake leg. She started this website because there's more to life than what we lose, and we need to let each other know what's possible, even if it's only a happy, ordinary life.

November 2011

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    sara at saraarts dot com

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Good reads, grownups only

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I'm so sorry, Sara. This is never easy. It just sucks. It does get better with time, though. Really. I read this and I remember taking one of my dogs in and how sick she was, then I remember that I dreamed of her just this week, years later - I was rubbing her belly and she was happy. My dogs always return in my dreams happy. So will your kitty. Meanwhile it just sucks, and I'm sorry.


May I suggest Mark Epstein's Open to Desire as a source of an alternate perspective on the Buddhist doctrine of not clinging. (clinging being very distinct from not attaching...)


Thanks, Leslee. Yes, I dream of all of them (there have been five) often. And it's as you said elsewhere: Even though this part is rough, I would not have foregone the gift that each of them was to me just to avoid it. I would not have foregone my deep attachment to each just to avoid this suffering. Both are temporary, just like me. And the gift of each has been far bigger than the loss.

And thank you, Bethieee. I probably won't be reading that book for quite some time (if you saw The Stacks -- which is sort of like The Stash only for readers, you'd know why), but I'll keep it in mind. The thing is, clinging is not really an issue for me. (Note the title of this blog.) I am very, very good at letting go of all sorts of things and, well, moving right along. What I do not understand is not why not to cling but why not to attach at all while attachment is possible -- yes, even knowing it's going to hurt like bloody hell when the attachment ends. The amazing gift that is love of any kind -- love of a person, love of a cat, heck, love of having two legs that work and feeling the earth through the soles of your shoes wherever you walk, while you can walk -- far outweighs the pain one experiences when the loved person or thing goes forever. Not opening oneself up to the possibility of fully immersing in that love while it happens -- and thus, yes, also that certain, unavoidable pain when it must become the stuff of memories -- staying detached, compassionately detached, but still detached, is what doesn't make sense to me.


I am so touched by your eloquent courage, your turning bravely into the gale. A few weeks ago, in an early morning sleep/wake state, I xperienced something so real that I am still reeling - my response was to try to anchor the pain in a poem. I leave it with you. Please forgive my temerity. I'm emboldened by having been awarded third place in the 2006 Robert Frost Poetry Festival Poetry Contest. Mostly luck, I assure you, but heady none-the-less. I'm sending a warm hug and am so sorry for about your cat.

The Dream

The old woman
thought it was a dream
when she felt her dead dog
walk across the quilt
and step across her,
to lie pressed and sighing
against her back.

But when she reached
behind her head
with her hand
to braille for fur -
– she held instead
A baby’s palm –
soft chrysalis.

She willed herself
To wake, to wake, for pity’s sake.

And Knowing now, that all there is of life
is love and pain,
she stood to face the day, again.

Ron Sullivan

Oh, Sara. Yes it's the hardest thing. I don't know about attachment, detachment, even compassion really -- that is, I can natter on and think about all that, but what or even how I think doesn't seem to have much to do with how I find myself feeling.

That, and I am rather allergic to incense. Speaking of increasing vs abating others' suffering.

Hugs to you and Furry and your truelove, FWIW.


Cathy, thank you. That's very nice. I especially like the first two stanzas, which seem to me complete all by themselves. Very moving.

Also, congratulations on your prize. That's splendid. Rest assured, though, that you certainly do not need any kind of credentials to share a poem with me. I love and encourage that kind of impulse -- well, with one exception.

Once upon a time, a pet crematorium sent me the ashes of one of my little beloveds with some preprinted piece of sentimental might-as-well-be-Hallmark-ery about how I shouldn't feel too bad because my generically described little four-footed sweetie was an angel in heaven now. It was all I could do not to send them a mail bomb in response.

It's one thing to share something that means something to you personally in the hope of comforting someone else. It's another thing entirely to trivialize the very real, very personal relationships of strangers not only by making assumptions about their governing spirituality but offering your own, assumed-to-be-the-absolute-norm spiritual projections via some pre-fab mimeographed response full of calculatedly button-pushing schlock you didn't even write.

You have not done this. You were being sweet and generous, sincere, I think -- and original. That's always okay, don't you think?

And thank you, Ron. I know what you mean about that disconnect between the ideal and the real. I have a hard time even figuring out why to strive for certain ideals in the first place, though. Cathy referred, for example, to "facing into the gale." I'm starting to think the gale might be the point -- part of it, anyway -- not figuring out how to duck it, but letting it go ahead and hit us when our lives -- our genuine, passionately lived lives -- take us into its path, letting it do what it will do, wash us, change us, even wound us, but not strive to live only some cosseted, indoor emotional life just because what might happen when we venture outside of that might not have entirely enjoyable consequences.

I don't know, of course. This is just a belief developing in me.

And just so you know, the Hynes Auditorium is kind of on a scale with the Cow Palace (well, maybe not quite that big, but way bigger than I knew going in), so it's not like I could smell the incense. (Maybe people who stayed longer could.) Also, now that I think of it, I'm not even sure there really was incense. There really were bells. My memory/imagination may have inserted the incense. I honestly don't know anymore.

I think the thing that got me was that it felt like a religious service instead of a talk, and I am allergic to religious services almost as much as incense. Even though I knew the viewpoint must necessarily be religiously framed, I meant to buy tickets for a lecture, not a service, and was shocked to discover my error.

Ron Sullivan

Huh. Maybe it's my own upbringing -- Roman Catholic -- but the idea of having to buy tickets to a religious service offends me in itself, quite aside from the arguably deceptive nature of its advertising as a lecture. (Specifically, it smacks of simony to me.)

Funny, the difference between a lecture and a sermon. Joe and I meet a couple of his friends from work (all retired now) every month for dinner at some Tenderloin spot or other and the California Academy of Sciences monthly free members' lecture. These are always interesting, usually entertaining, often include something beautiful, and mainly we get some aha! facts conveyed to us. I like facts (OK, I'm a geek) but dislike getting orders.

And I guess I'd really dislike thinking I was going to hear someone talk about his experiences and practice and worldview and instead find myself in something that smacked of worship. Some might explain the ceremonious stuff as mood-setting for receptivity, but that's best done with the words; the bells and smells don't affect everyone the same way. Obviously. I'm inclined to be interested in what TNH has to say, but I think I'll stick to reading it in a book.

As to that gale, I think it'll have its way with us no matter what we do, so we might as well get out and watch it coming.


Yes. Now, to be fair again, I do not remember this event being advertised as either a lecture or a religious service. I remember it as being advertised simply as an appearance. I interpreted this as a talk. It turned out to be way more complicated. I would have appreciated a warning, but cannot say I was misled.

As for the gale, yeah. One can only duck down so far, and it just makes no sense to me to spend more than a strictly "common-sense" amount of energy on that. The gale even has its own beauty, which is worth having, too.

Striving for balance makes sense to me. Protecting oneself and one's fellow travelers wherever possible from wasteful risks makes sense to me. Avoiding feeling anything too deeply does not make any sense to me at all.


The Dalai Lama himself has said that Westerners should stick with western religions unless they feel strongly drawn to Buddhism. Perhaps it just isn't for you -- this time around.

Sorry about your feline companion. I lost Mr. Slim a couple of years ago, 1 month short of his 20th birthday. Had him since he was about 2 months old. The correspondent above is right; they do come back happy, but letting go is hard.

Detachment is not about not feeling; it's about deep understanding and acceptance of the transient nature of all things. It's not for everyone.



Thanks for your thoughts, Bill.

Namasté right back. :)

Ron Sullivan

(snort) "Appearance?" Sounds closer to an apparition. (cf. Lourdes or Fatima)

Detachment is not about not feeling; it's about deep understanding and acceptance of the transient nature of all things. It's not for everyone.

Speaking of connotations, as I just did, there's that last sentence. Hm.

Anyway, if detachment is not about feeling, then it has nothing to do with what people are quite often advising"detachment" for, as, more or less, a remedy. Yes, death and transitoriness* are natural. So is grief about them; so is all that pain.

*Yes, it's a word. Now.


It sounds like somewhere along the line some translator made a wrong semantic choice. In fact "acceptance" is very, very different in nuance from "detachment." "Acceptance" as a word is more at "embracing" in meaning. "Detachment" is more at "disengaging," or "disinvolvement," or "ducking."

This is true at least in English -- which certainly should be able to embrace the word "transitoriness."

Strictly coincidentally, after reading all these comments, I watched my most recently Netflixed selection, Water, a very wonderful movie by the great, great Indian director Deepa Mehta. This movie is about a very Eastern practice of a very Eastern religion, Hinduism, wherein widows were, and apparently still often are, forced to live lives of ascetism upon becoming widows. It's a particularly awful societal practice when the widows are children under the age of ten who have been married to very much older men who have made them widows before they have even reached puberty. (Of course, marrying children is a very nasty practice as well.)

The widows who live ascetic lives are promised that this is an opportunity for them to "liberate" themselves from the world, and are told that if they live out their lives this way they won't reincarnate but will go straight to Nirvana. The misfortune of having their husbands die before them, which acts to disenfranchise them entirely so that they will not have to be considered when property is distributed and so other family members will not have to care for them, is spun to them as an opportunity for them to spend the rest of their time on Earth detaching themselves from it, when in fact it is the widows' world which is detaching itself from them and their fate.

If you rent this excellent movie, third in a trilogy of similarly excellent films including Earth and Fire, do watch the DVD extras, the "behind the scenes" and "making of" shorts, in which you will see how much trouble the director had getting these films made.

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