Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Last Words, Lastly.

This post is for Eric Aadhaar's soul ceremony, held on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 in Australia, and in various corners of our little blue and green planet. 

(J.S Bach Prelude in C-Major from Bagdad Cafe soundtrack)

Hello from the past, and thank you for being here right now in the present. Thank you for bearing witness to my passing, and to hearing these final few words I wish to let go out into the world.

I am aware that I do not wish to shape your memory of me by what I say here and now. You will remember me the way you want and need to. And I love that. So this short speech today is not really about me.

As I sit here, in the past, writing this, I am imagining the future; this present of yours, and what I am feeling is immense gratitude.

Really, I just want to thank you.

I would like to think I made my love for you well-felt enough when I lived, but of course we never can, as humans, ever love enough to satisfy ourselves. Such is our desire for love, for each other, for the amazing sense of oneness we share as people, that I spent most of my entire life trying to have others see my love. Perhaps, that I might see it in myself. Where I was remiss in seeming to love you, I am sorry; it was not for lack of love, just a flaw in me.

But like I said, this is not about me.

In life I had the immense good fortune to have loved and to have been loved, and eventually to have let myself feel that love properly, truly, deeply, too. This; despite my own best efforts at sabotaging my own happiness. You, my family of man, have constantly embraced me. You have allowed me to feel the love of the universe through you. You have taught me, finally, one of the Great Life Lessons it seems I most needed to learn: to trust. Through you I have learned to have faith, purely, not in any single or particular thing, but to allow the feeling of faith to be real. In the end I did get what those spiritual masters and prophets who have gone before have said on the subject of faith and belief, and in the end, it was you through whom I awakened to it. Nature, Godhead if you will, spoke to me in great part through you. This is true of my closest companions and the most random strangers.

What happened? How did I come to feel so changed and loved when at times in life it seemed so much suffering and pain was stacked against me? When the world around in itself could seem so torn and broken and wretched with needless agonies and destruction?

Well, I don't know.

But it's something to do with nature, and spirit. You see, I say that all this love has come through you, and this is true, but deeper still, I feel this love as that of the love of all creation, the pure light of some divine reality. The same stuff you get from properly just sitting and being with a tree, or a cow, or whatever. The what is unimportant. The just being is the thing, the place at the edge where it all happens. For what it's worth, I came to see it more and more around me, and as my days faded the light I saw, the glimmer of man slowly but inexorably returning to Nature, reconciling with itself, grew greater and clearer. I don't think it was just me. I think we really are changing.

I am pretty sure I did not die perfect. But I am even surer that I died pretty damn well, and for the opportunity, the great good fortune to do that; the enormous luxury of time to truly suffer and deeply experience the lessons my oh-so-slow mind insisted on trying to grasp and speak out loud, I am thankful. For letting go and going past that, I am more thankful still. To have found release, to have glimpsed the Oneness of death and life, at least in some small way.

It might be fair to say that today your life has more death in it than the average day.

Let us then celebrate the gifts of life, but also those that death brings us; closure, relief, renewal. Letting go. The cleansing power of grief to shift our energies, to stretch us and our ability to love and grow. But let us never forget to equally honour the darkness, the hurt, the pain. These things are OK. Really, I promise.

That death and disruption strike at every hour, yet we continue to behave as though we were immortal; this is the greatest mystery.

I shall not seek to ask your blessing, or that you remember me well, or even at all. I do not seek to have the last word, and given my form in life it's a fair cop that so many of you would at least inwardly chuckle at that' but seriously, I trust you to let me go the best way you know how, in the way that makes it feel rightest - that is, the most right - for you. Because learning to trust in life has given me a great faith in what is happening, or has happened, since writing this and in dying.

How can we decide to trust life and not trust its equal and necessary partner, death?

I am not going to ask you not to grieve, I do not want to try and deny you the needs of your pain, as can be such a fashionable thought these days, to quarantine all the 'negative' thoughts and feelings and – in the case of death – celebrate the good things only. Let us celebrate the grief and the growth from pain, as well as the joy.

But let's DO celebrate, for my life has been simply the most fabulous fucking thing ever.

I could write a list. It would be really, really long. But I shan't, for the time of counting blessings is past now too. The blessings are in totality; alongside my old self, all become one.

Music has been the closest thing in my life to religion.

Earlier you heard a scant two minutes of a simple piece of Bach, played by a young amateur actor, on a nearly clapped-out old upright piano, that touches for me every single aspect of human experience worth having. It is a magick. One single note at a time, the entirety of life and all eternity held up to the light and exultant. So if you wish to know what I think about the afterlife, or what is here for me now, beyond death, listen to music. Music will tell you. Art is here for us that we may have some way of understanding that which logic can never touch.

There is so much I could say to and of each and every one of you, but that time is gone now too. Still, there are those to whom I wish to dedicate a special place in the heart of this day.

The first, my mother Betty, father Michael, and sister Bronnwyn, for bringing me into being and shepherding me through the first years of my life. And the last, my partner, comrade, lover and friend, Meeta. For all that we have done and shared and been. And for being here to help me go in the way that you have. There are not words for how grateful I am to you Meeta, for there is no edge to my thankfulness and love. It's OK though, because I know that you know that I know what had to be known in the end. We knew.

Posterity, it turns out, isn't something I ended up being overly concerned about. It feels to me now like I did what I wanted and needed to do in life. And that, the sense held deep in my very marrow that I went where I needed to go, faced the challenges and learned from the failures and hurts as much as from the joys and cheers, is the blessing I wish for everyone on earth.

I wish that you find a place of true contentment, a safe and sacred space inside, a connected space that holds you snug in the embrace of nature and light, yet a space that carries always the memory that death is just … right … here. All the time. That is the way for us to heal; to heal ourselves, each other, and most vitally, our planet. To heal our Nature. However you do that, as long as it's real.

Goodbye then.

Please go deeply into your day today, whatever that means and however that goes for you right now. Look around, look at the person either side of you for a moment and remember their faces, with love. Before you take your leave today and go back into your own private day of life, remember to take the moment to feel the love of everyone here, and everyone touched by knowing you, or even just meeting you for the very first time. Remember I loved you, and knew well of your love for me. Remember we are all the same. We are all the same thing. Even as I am dead and gone now, we are still one with matter and energy, in entropy, and in the light that shines through us.

Thank you not just for your love in my life, but for your love in letting me – helping me – to go.

I will leave you with one more piece of music, which I hope you will like. It is I guess a little parable about the power of love and togetherness; to grow we humans well, as a part of nature, accepting all that comes, beyond judgement.

It is called “One Voice,” performed by the Wailin' Jennies.

This is the sound of one voice
One spirit, one voice
The sound of one who makes a choice
This is the sound of one voice

This is the sound of voices two
The sound of me singing with you
Helping each other to make it through
This is the sound of voices two

This is the sound of voices three
Singing together in harmony
Surrendering to the mystery
This is the sound of voices three

This is the sound of all of us
Singing with love and the will to trust
Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust
This is the sound of all of us

This is the sound of one voice
One people, one voice
A song for every one of us
This is the sound of one voice
This is the sound of one voice

(from the album "40 Days")

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Last Post

That you are reading this now means that I have died.

That I am writing this now, ahead of time, is part of the act of letting myself go.

A good and solid friend a while back generously agreed to look after and wind down my online presences once the time came, and it is by her good grace that you are able to read this now. Thank you for that, Olga.  The idea is that this post will be updated with details a little later, you know, about the funeral and such, but that this is the last ever post from me. It and the rest of this blog will stay here, for posterity as it were, until such time as entropy works it levelling charms, and this thin skein of words falls apart and returns to the Great Background from which it emanated.

It's that I wanted to say goodbye, and to thank you, is all.

Between finishing this post and my leaving we may have 'spoken' some more anyway, you may have shared a little piece more of the journey; borne witness to days that only now lie in your past.  And for that, if that is the case, I am sorry.

That is the other thing I want to say, that I am sorry for being that guy who did this in your life and you watched on and were made sad because suffering just does that to people and ... yes, I am sorry for all that. I ask forgiveness for the hurts I have done you, in whatever way I might have, including the hurt that having to let go can sometimes bring. I am sorry.

It might be important for you to know that I feel like I've had a really great life.  Also, that I feel like I'm having a pretty great death too, as things go, and that means I carry no ill will of my own.  I cannot now really pinpoint the moment I realized that I really had no regrets left, and there was no-one left to forgive in my petty wounded ego; that I had been, for some time, already set free.  Hallelujah.  Let's say it again:


As I continue to dissolve as a self, even with each letter I type a bit more of the me-ness crumbling off and subsuming into the Everything-ness, I am still aware that my great fortune in life seems to come down to two things, separated by what might be a near-universal habit of mind.  Nature and mankind.

I am thankful to both in equal measure.

If you have read my blatherings here and elsewhere online the last couple of years you will have some idea of my understanding of things spiritual, of my approach to the Sacred.  My observation is that man constantly seeks to return to nature, as if there has indeed been some catastrophic division set up between what we see as ourselves and what we see as Everything Else, spirit included.  For what it's worth, I believe that man is evolving in a good direction, and during my life I have seen more and more evidence that man is - albeit slowly and haltingly - making his way back to Oneness.  Hallelujah some more, for that.  Certainly, it is a theme that has defined my journey into death, if not my whole life.

Today death might be on your mind a bit more so than on most days.  Let's celebrate that.  On the way to meet my death, I have had great fears.  There was terror and anguish and pain, there was grief and lament and years of losing, incrementally, bits of life along the way.  Yet every pain ultimately only brought me more goodness.  More contentment. Deeper experience of the stuff of life and heart and spirit.  More love. And you have been there, reflecting Godhead (and me) all the while, playing your own special role in Nature, growing alongside, living your life.  Thank you for sharing it.

Lastly, it may be important for you to know that in life I got to know how much I was loved.  Thank you for showing me your love, and helping the universal love find its way to me through you.  My only remaining aim in life, as I let things go, was to be a conduit for that love in the world.  I hope that somehow I have brought into your life just a little bit of the immense loving kindness that I have experienced.  There is just one thing left to say:

Thank you, and goodbye.

Some Practical Details

[Funeral details have been removed. The rest of Eric Aadhaar's message is below.]

If you are attending the funeral, please dress as if you were going out for a lovely lunch or something like that; don't be afraid of colours, or celebration, for it will be a celebration of life as much as a ritual of its passing.  Please bring with you a spray of foliage; a small branch of twig of leaves from a favourite tree or shrub, or any plant that speaks to you along the way; of the right sort of size to act as a fly swisher or a  fan.  This will be used in the ceremony, so hang on to it.

If you wish to attend but cannot and would like to participate in my passing, then maybe consider a small ritual of your own.  Find yourself a suitable little branch of leaves, a beautiful quiet spot with an outlook on something natural, and meditate on the life that runs through you.  The life that runs through your being from crown to footsoles, that courses through your switch of foliage, that extends around the planet and is the very same energy with which you and I are connected.  Meditate on the Oneness of you and I and everything, and if you are moved to do so, bring your memories of me to mind.  Then take your fan of leaves, and swish me away. See my spirit rising up before you as if a wreath of fragrant smoke, and fan my spirit back home.  Guide my spirit upward and outward, fan me away, and let me go.  Dissolve.  When you are done, return your little branch to nature as best you see fit; fire, compost, or just left gently on the earth under some trees.  And say a prayer for yourself.  Perhaps the one below.

And also, have a wonderful day.

Great Spirit, whose voice in the winds I hear,
And whose breath gives life to all the world. Hear me.
Before you I come, one of your many children.
Small and weak am I.
Your strength and wisdom I need.
Make me walk in beauty.
Make me respect all you have made,
My ears to hear your voice.
Make me wise that I may know all you have taught we people,
The lessons you have hidden in every rock.
I seek strength not to be superior to my brother,
Make me able to overcome my greatest enemy, myself.
Make me ready to stand before you with clean and straight eyes.
When life fades, as the fading sunset,
May my spirit stand before you without shame.

(adapted from Chief Yellow Lark of the Lakota, North America).

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Well, yes. Just well.

Wow. Well ... weird and weary, woozy but yes, well.
Wired,wandering and wending with no vested intent but vaguely westward.
Wonderful, in its way.

This is me just reflecting myself as it gets onto 48 hours since my last feed.  A few half-cups of kefir is all, to settle the stomach. Seems to help things be smooth.  The mind mainly slickly moves to match my body, or perhaps it is the other way around.  Spirit; it is centred, so it seems, which is enough.

The only thing that isn't slower now is the rate of change. That's rather the reverse, my body is shutting down faster now, a pace is gently picking up.  So I shan't stay here writing long, I'm off to stand while standing is still something I can do, in the patch of warm sun, doing what it does, late on this beautiful day.

Live your moment well too.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Calling Time

"Last drinks please, ladies and gentlemen; it is time."

The emphasis was always squarely on the last word in this sentence I have called out in bars late at night on more occasions than I care to remember; "... it is time." Very often tapping my wristwatch held aloft, for those doing their thinking solely visually at this stage.

I'm calling last drinks on life today (Thursday, my time); as of tonight my feeds will all have run out, and the only thing of any caloric value I will imbibe is a little kefir if I need it tomorrow and the day after as my stomach gets used to being empty.  Last drinks. It's time. The end of counting is nigh.

So in some ways it's all about time again. I'm sure that my journey into the nature of that very stuff, the actual experience of time passing that we call life, will continue to change right up until there is no more of it in the sense I know and measure a breath at a time in this busted old broken-ass body; the vessel of me that St Francis of Assissi used to disparagingly refer to as 'Brother Donkey.'

Why now? I don't know.  There are a hundred reasons why now is the right time, but it's not their force put together as an argument that makes this right.  It is not any single main thing, nor has there been some irrevocable tipping point reached; this is not a flailing bid to avoid being pushed by some circumstance, and nor is it a desperate attempt to reassert at least some control over my own destiny at any cost. There is an element of every feeling in this moment.  Perhaps one of the more compelling factors is that there really is no reason against it.  It is most certainly not the 'wrong' time to die. It is just time. The right time. I say this grounded firmly, sound of mind and spirit, and believing myself to be clearly interpreting what is right in a Divine sort of sense, as well as a mundane one. That this decision is as much guidance from Godhead (whatever, etc) and my 'self'. And now you know too.

I've known for a few days, but needed to be a little more inward with things about it before letting the bigger world in on it.  You know, special moments with Meeta, and practical considerations like getting advice on medication changes and so on from my doc were important things for example.

What happens next?  I don't know.  Physically for me, I have some idea of what to expect and I shan't burden you here with details or speculation for it's all only probabilities anyway.  You can google things like life expectancy without nutrition and then guess wildly how my particulars will fall into the bell curves of probability and prognoses.  It's measured in weeks and days, not months and weeks. That's a good framework, if you need one.

Will I keep writing? How will you know when I'm gone?  To the first question I'd say probably, a little bit. I don't know.  Maybe not.  To the second I can tell you a few things:

You know I have arranged with one special friend to look after my online affairs upon my demise (and I am thankful for this every time I think of it) and she will put up a blog post here that I have pre-prepared, and post a link on Facebook, etc.  At least, that is the plan.  Then later there will be funeral details as they become firm, and then one last post including the last few words of mine which I am having read at the funeral, so that those unable to make it can read that too.  The blog will stay here, until entropy eventually claims it too, is the plan.

The funeral?  Of course you are invited, if you wish to pay your respects in that way.  I do not expect that many of you here shall make it of course, living as my social circle seems to all around the globe (what a world, eh?) and my having long ago shed a face-to-face surrounding of many friends and acquaintances, as once I had.  You will be able to RSVP via the blog post later, I am sure my online 'oops buddy' will make proviso there etc.

It will be a natural burial, almost certainly at Northam Cemetery (in fact I can see the very plot from my balcony here, a few degrees East of the roof of my house) a few days after my death.  I shall be wrapped in my favourite natural-dyed alpaca/llama wool poncho from Bolivia, in a new type of non-toxic recycled cardboard coffin, unembalmed, all of that.  That is the plan.

Please do not send flowers.  Meeta will look after the floral stuff for the day, and if you are attending, you will see that I ask you later to bring a spray of leaves or a small branch from your garden or a plant you love nearby to hold ans use on the day.  More on that in time, nothing needs your attention now.  If you wanted to pass a message on to Meeta or the others of my extended family, the blog post comment section will be open once the post is up, and any messages you leave will be able to be seen by others.  My oops buddy will make arrangements for anyone who wishes to send something more privately; see the post on the day.  For those who do wish to contribute the natural burial fund will remain open for a little while now only (see link above to the right), and any funds received in excess of need for the expenses of my interrment will be used wisely, well and charitably for the good of the rest of our planet, be assured.  After all, that's what this is all about isn't it?  Going back around. Honouring the cycles. Giving back to nature. Letting the entropy be equal to the light in our hearts and minds.

So that's it folks, that's all I wanted to say right now, so everyone knows.

Good night for now, then.

I trust this message finds you peaceful and well, and that your life today has extra love in it.
Thank you for having been here thus far.
Thank you for being here now.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reality? Check. (Notes from TWATEOTU #6)

The days have been passing peacefully up here in my hermitage, my Last Place. It's been another of those times of limbo; a sort of holding pattern as I circle about waiting for the landing.

It's a strange and timeless land, this near-death place.  Since coming here this last time I have had several neighbours come and go, to whence I know not in most cases.  We mainly seem to die at night and very often certain classes of fellow inmate at the Ward At The End Of The Universe seem to choose to head home at the very last minute.  To make sure they're really, really dying now and have the ambulance deliver them there so they can breathe their last at home.  Since I first started visiting here, I'd say maybe one in five or six choose that sort of option.  Not me, of course, as previously mentioned.

Despite there being so many beginnings and especially endings here, time however seems to stand apart so much of the ... time, now, for me at least.

Partly, we can put that down to my physical state.  I am like treacle, glacially sticky as I ooze down my own mortal gravity well, as my gut and indeed my whole carcass (you'd think of carcass too, as in an abattoir setting, if you saw me in the actual flesh, as I do in the mirror) slows down and pulls inwards and inwards.  The pain increases, and because I dislike too much pain, so does the dose of painkiller, and around and around we go.  The drugs slow things further, eventually causing more pain.  I recall that was always a key assumption of The Plan, and it seems to be working out more or less accordingly.

You might be tempted to think that I am deeply self-involved and meditative all the while, introspective and preparing for what lies ahead, doing all that spiritual 'work' that we all know we ought to do, and in part of course this is right, I am.  But also, not so much.

The banality of simply drawing breath is also important.  Watching the football, even though I can not know how my team will finish this year (tantalisingly top of the ladder as I write, hooray!), and even now falling into new mundane, oh-so-mortal habits of doing.  I notice that I notice 3:00PM coming up on weekdays for example, for there is one of those SAHM-targetted cooking shows on then that I quite enjoy.  It's just some guy who is pleasant company for half an hour and whose approach to cooking I quite enjoy.  Irony?  Who, me? But yeah, it's a habit that I have, to remember it's on and decide whether to watch. I usually do, unless there are visitors.  And having done so a few times, I have formed a new attachment.

That is the way of just living though, isn't it?  We attach to everything we touch, like toddlers learning the world through our mouths over and over, everything goes in and gets eventually, somehow, slotted home into some unthinking category.  Not as if I have anything else I need to be doing at 3:00.  But I have no fear of attachment left in me.  I see them fall off me all the time, new and old alike.  It's like all the glue on my exterior has been magically dissolved,and it takes only the merest waft of breeze for even clattering old monuments to the habitual and life-defining to slip away and disappear forever. Effortless, and not needful of my attention or time, for the main.

It would be disingenuous to pretend there wasn't also a habit of pressure on myself to do this 'right' though.  I might use that time far better more consciously meditating (or praying), cleaning up my mind some more, doing the rituals and practises that pass for my own syncretic version of religiosity.  I feel deeply the truth that so much of my lifespan has in many ways been a missed opportunity to be more prepared with death, and thus, more engaged with living a great life.  Beat myself up?  No, not any more.  I have just decided that daytime cooking shows are as sacred a possibility as and spiritual practice.  What my mind does while watching such TV pap is a most interesting thing to observe, and I do a lot of that, almost as an outsider.  Just look back at me.  The pressure, of course, is simply another tricky little way of my ego asserting its supposed right to existence as an 'other'.  Silly bloody way to build a species if you ask me ;-)

I love that guy.  Me, I mean, when I step outside of myself and look at me I love him, myself.  It feels slightly different from when I feel it when I am more totally 'in' my body.  There is something important there.  It is also undeniably wonderful to leave a body which has chronic aches for a spell.  Makes you appreciate the value of pain when you come back in, as well.

So, TV, DVDs, (I have over the last 6 months or so watched every episode ever made of Upstairs, Downstairs, would you believe, and loved every minute), reading when my eyes and hands let me do so easily and lately audiobooks.  Music, so much music, but that blurs the lines - I use it very consciously for soulwork also. Plus messing about online.  This is the filler I do to Occupy Mind Street, but unlike in the protest movement's sense of occupation I just like to give it (the mind) something to get distracted with so I can allow other things, the roiling cauldron of change underneath all this mighty mundanity, to bubble and steam as it needs to.  To get out of my own way.

What I have found, is that stuff is getting done without my doing a thing.  What I mean is I am aware that all this ravelled self, these billions of miles of threads that have woven the me I think I am today need to get loosened so help me slip out of the world here as peacefully as I can, which is really my only aim in life.  I used to think that it would require my attention consciously, once upon a time.  In fact, I thought such thoughts and held such beliefs incessantly for decades.  But then I discovered that daytime cooking shows can also allow the space for enlightenment to creep in around the edges.  That you don't even have to have good intentions; it just happens when you let yourself step aside.

And every now and then, to have a ramble like this to see things out in front of myself is just the ticket to checking this reality, that everything in life, and thus vis-a-vis death, is of equal importance. Check.

There are no major news announcements today, nothing of import to report, although there is plenty changed underneath, of which I will speak at some length when the pot next needs some attention. For right now, the simmering continues within, all energetic with heat and dense with mortality, all the while another full frame of me soars about, just circling, looking at this great wide landscape of me, of place, of time, and just letting go of looking for a landing place. For I know it is near, and that I shall recognize it when it hoves into view.

Peace and contentment upon you, dear reader, and thank you for your company this evening.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Every Day I Make New Life

A little while back I posted something about all the 'lasts' there have been.  You know, doing this and that the last time, and how little import such thoughts seem to have compared to how much we all (I think) suppose there should be attached to our 'last-time-evers.'

One of those things I did for the last time was start a batch of kefir.

I make kefir from starter sachets.  They make these by spray-drying kefir cultures, called grains.  I make organic cow's milk kefir a litre at a time, and the first litre of a new batch is always a little bit exciting.  They are all a teeny bit different in either consistency, aroma, in all sorts of ways really, and this is how you'd think it ought to be with a natural process.  Temperature and time affect it, as do factors like how often I agitate my fermentation container, and how often I open the lid and let it breathe etc.  Then of course, there is the variation caused by environmental bacteria - that introduced from the air, and from me, as I make and handle it all.

To make the next batch, you just use a bit of the previous batch as a starter, and add another litre of milk. A batch can take from 12 to 24 hours to ferment, I find.  They say the sachets are good for 5 or 7 generations, after which time the colonies of bacteria and fungi (there are somewhere between 20 and 50 different organisms that make an average kefir culture) have change more into a yoghurt than a kefir, those bacilli like the acidophillus strains being more aggressive.  The milk also clabbers at some point, which is to say it starts to separate out into curds and whey.  I just shake it back together again, which it seems to love, and then the clabbering stops, seemingly never to recur.

What I've found though, is that with a bit of listening, a bit of kefir-whispering and paying attention to the subtle changes, it is not just good beyond those 7 generations, but it seems to tend back towards a more complex, rather than less complex, kefir after a point.  Grains start to form of their own accord.  Environmental bacteria get a look-in, much of which naturally will be directly back from my personal microbiome, that multibillioncelled 'other' me whose cells outnumber me, and which makes up as much as 10% of my mass.  It becomes a very personal kefir.

This batch has met Meeta too, as she's helped me prepare a feed or two using it, so it has gotten added goodies from her; most or many of which I probably share already.

So I decided when I moved out of home up here to hospice ... oh, and I have to tell you something about that too, I'll come back to that ... that I'd make a fresh batch of kefir to take with me, and it's a really fine batch in every way.

The title of this post is misleading, as really I only make a new batch every 2 to 3 days on average, but the feel of the title is right nonetheless, and if not taken so literally, then ...

It's a wonderful meditation on life, the simple art and act of kefir making.  Possibly one of the most simple and direct ways of communing with the cycle of life and consumption of life we can do. I think of it more as farming than anything else; husbanding a herd of microbiota to thrive and have the best possible life they can have, that I may feast of their offspring and even more importantly the by-products of their own deaths.  It has become a holy little thing, this humble plastic flask (BPA-free food grade etc etc) of whitish liquid that comes out of the fridge to keep me company from time to time, prompting me to give it a little shake or not as the mood strikes, or memory kicks in.  Slowly changing hue and ever-so-gently pushing out the sides of the flask as a moderate gas pressure builds up, undoubtedly a living thing.  It and the blends that Meeta brings are still all of my subsistence, materially speaking.

Today, I had a half a minute of wistfulness as I started up another batch that shortly it too, would die, but it felt nice.  I feel like I understood something about ancient urges to take companions (wives, horses, soldiers etc) into death with you.  It would be a bit like taking a talisman of this 'other' me, my microflora self.  Haha, perhaps like the legendary Chinese court eunuch's testicles in a jar.

And this, I note, is my very first attachment to any projected thought about an afterlife.  I really have never clung to an image-projection of What Next Looks Like in that way before.  Odd, but cute I guess.  I mean, of course the kefir has soul.

Kefir will be the last sustenance I take, I'm almost certain. The last food in life I came to. Seems right.

Anyway, about that leaving home thing; yes, I'm not going back now.  For one thing, I'm not sure I'd manage the steps. But more importantly it's just time.  That thing inside we call home (and it's interesting that my second-favourite t-shirt at the moment is a cartoony big happy-looking snail) has detached enough from the house.  In one sense, I left it too long to go back.  Even just in this last, what, two weeks is it? three? that I have been here I have changed too much for the house to fit me. And also, I have no real desire left to go back.  I do miss the dogs but they still visit me.  As for Buckley:  Well, cats are ... cats are OK like that I find.  I experience animal telepathy with cats, and always have.  I just assumed all my life that this was normal and when I discovered as a child that apparently it's not a mainstream view I sort of just shut up about it.  I mean, 'cat people' know anyway, and so do cats, so what does it matter?  So Bucks and I, we're OK.

So I'm glad of that too.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Ham Steak. Meaning of Life. Etc.

This was unexpected.  That there should still be weird food cravings popping up and triggering reminiscences, moods, and so on is not surprising at all of course but that I should find myself seized by a fierce craving, as of yesterday, for something that would never have even made it to a 'top few-hundred' list of my past favourite foods from any time period is odd.

Especially as I'm also doing it in my head with pineapple, which I once used to assiduously remove from pizza or any such cooked or meaty environment.  Pineapple? Yum. Ham?  Yes, sometimes I used to be partial to a bit of cured pig, especially in that modern Anglo-Aussie seasonal Xmas ham way of things.  Ham is after all related to bacon, that most notorious of gateway fleshes for former carnivores.

Other foody items have popped up to spark a memory, spin me around for a while in reverie of something that turns out in my present hyper-connected-to-something state to have a revelatory and profound meaning for me, (NOTE to self; consider making a list, could be interesting) but none with the force of ham steaks.  Grilled, with pineapple, and maybe a few starchy vegetable extras.

Then the penny dropped.

Long Pig.

I'll back up a step.  Naturally, I queried myself when the thought of ham steaks being delicious, toothsome and desirable, deeply, to my own fleshly being, down to the very ache in my bones, sprang - flooringly powerfully - from whence I know not.  Had the thought as earlier; I never really liked ham steaks much anyway.  They remind me somewhat of my father; he liked such things, and as a food I associate them with him.  Maybe they were served on special Dad-treat occasions during my childhood.  Certainly, again as was the modern tradition in the second half of the 20th Century in these parts, the Man Of The House was also Meat Master, including Lord Of The Annual Ham at Xmastime.  It was a role I was aware of, tucked away in my future-self psyche down what was even then in early childhood a dark and uninviting passageway; the route down which I married young, and took my kids to see the fireworks for the year 2000 at the Sydney Opera House, imagining it as an already-worn family ritual.  One day I would be The Man, in charge of things like Meat, and especially the sacred Ham, in my own House.

The house that carried the name of my father.  Truly though, even then I knew that wasn't going to happen.

Ham steaks are different creatures entirely from, say, common or garden-variety sandwich ham, the kind you find cheaply the White Person world over and best disguised between industrial-grade white commercial bread and butter.  Different too from the other end of the scale, the gourmet offerings from particular regions or locales, the finely sliced perhaps slightly smokey variety one may find layered in a lovely croissant with some good melted cheese.  See there's a thing that would have made a top-fifty list for me, right there, a good quality ham and cheese croissant.  Not only a classically satisfying combination of all the flavours the Western palate has been raised this last hundred years to crave, but one which features for me in so many happy times.  It sits in a wonderful place in memory. Maybe top twenty-five even, thinking about it.  But no, this is about the essential ham steak.

Despite the varieties of ham available to mankind, the ham steak is pretty much a sameish thing.  Pineapple is a classic combination for it in no small measure because the digestive qualities of the pineapple are perfectly attuned to assist the body in rendering that fats and proteins in the meat available to us, but also because it's one of the few flavours one could put beside the salty immensity of an inch thick chunk of cured fatty pig leg and not be completely overwhelmed or simply clash horribly.  Some would argue that the latter is exactly the case anyway.  It doesn't really matter how you cook it or what ham you use, a ham steak is a commitment to eat.  It's already been through a whole lengthy process of becoming tasty, delectable cured piggy and now you're going to insult it by adding more fat (probably) and grilling it.

There is just so much wrong with this picture it's hard to know where to start. Or even where to look.  
This photo strikes me as a classically Australian idiosyncratic expose.

I wonder, would a ham steak on the smokier end of the flavour spectrum be good grilled, smeared with a dab of quince paste, then topped with a sort of tapenade paste of finely chopped kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes and crumbled goat's cheese?  Cracked black pepper, fresh at the end.  Crusty but light wholemeal loaf, with butter.  Side dish of warm green bean and beetroot salad. Just a thought.  But no, it's still the hunk of grilled ham, with pineapple, and the commitment of slicing into it with a knife and fork repeatedly, chewing and swallowing hunks of it until it has all been consumed.

For I do remember now that  ham steak is something that was difficult to finish.  By the end, it was just too intense. That much flavour is fine, but when it's an amount of meat normally associated with uncured, relatively bland cow flesh - a beef steak for example - I seem always to have felt some regret at having started in on a ham steak, those times it was a choice I made, at a BBQ, or something.  Maybe if I had liked the pineapple back then, I don't know.

Yes, I'm still starving.  My actual weight seems more to be in conversion than dropping so much.  What I mean is that my muscle mass is declining even further, but I'm retaining fluid in places, bloating and so forth.  My diet has changed a little, with Meeta making my blends from a wider variety of things.  My relationship with feeding continues to change and morph apace, and I find myself less and less wanting it.  I am wedged in now; I cannot any longer feed any more than I do anyway, and my overall mass maintains its inexorable direction. Exactly what I'm putting in seems less important now by a huge degree, compared to only a week or two ago when I had the urge to cleanse and purge somewhat.

But seriously, ham steaks? There just isn't enough history there for me personally to explain the depth of this one.  I asked myself and did some semi-scientific postulation about what nutrients my body might be codedly signalling me for in the face of this starvation diet, and naturally one can make a case for protein, fat, salt, even the sugar.  Maybe because it's such a dense flavour packet some part of my imagination is seeking magic fuel bullets with massive caloric and micronutrient impact ... nah.  It just doesn't stand up.

The penny did drop, though.  And it's related to what my body craves nutritionally.  I am wanting to eat my own self.

Long Pig is a term variously attributed to any one of a plethora of erstwhile (or perhaps even present-day) cannibalistic cultures who also made use of porcine flesh in their diets; most probably from the Marquesas Island area in Polynesia.  It refers to human flesh, as it is said that the closest taste and texture match for we human folk is pig.  And a ham steak is about as visceral and potentized a form of pig you can get.  The pineapple only adds to its power.  I am, very simply, craving beyond any food stuff now, I am craving the very fabric of my own flesh, for what the body recognizes at its deepest layers.  The animal craves its own existence, carnally.

Makes you wonder a bit more deeply about what exactly goes through the heads of people who find themselves suddenly, outside of any cultural context, faced with the question of eating a fellow person to stay alive.

(It's a moneybox. Geddit? ;-)

Penny dropped, a nasty dead and dull thud as if edge-on to a softwood kitchen table under a heavy cloth, the image and desire immediately began to ebb away, mercifully.  But not before some bizarre clashes of imagery erupt startlingly, too floatingly surreal to attempt in words for you here I'm afraid.  A 'you had to be there' moment or several. :-)

What made the whole ham steak thing come upon me I cannot say.  Can't recall a trigger anywhere.  But I can tell you when that penny dropped; watching a program on TV about young women starting out, or contemplating, new lives as nuns.  I shan't bother to explain.

Anyway, thanks as always for bystanding in that special and supportive way you do.  I'm glad that is over now.  Because I really, really, don't like ham steaks.  Never really did.  Yet for a good twenty-four hours roughly, give or take, ham steak became one of the Most Important Things In All Creation.  To me, that is.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Custard Tarts

In my life's experience, there are two sorts of custard tarts.  There are the Australian bakery-stock type, similar to the above, with their thin almost biscuity sweet crust and solid-wobbling canary-vivid yellow filling, dusted by the merest hint of what is at least generally referred to as nutmeg.  And then there are those made by people who care, infinitely more subtle, varied, and satisfying to the senses.

All my life I've loved both these creatures, but for very different reasons.  The industrial-quality tarts did duty for decades as a fill-in fuel source between regular mealtimes, often when I'd missed a meal, as a fast-to-eat sugar/fat/protein hit that fills you up for a while, and usually extremely cheaply too; an important factor in so many of my life's years.  The choice of custard tart over some other sort of cheap bakery type item does relate to the other type of tart though, in that when you're plowing through the centre of your cold yellow mass straight out of the display fridge you are reminded of the existence of actually fine and magnificent gourmet custard tarts, albeit elsewhere in time and place, but there now in your mind nonetheless.  One can momentarily transport oneself; 'upgrade' one's custard tart experience, perhaps, for just a moment.  But also the joy is simple; luscious mouthfeel, sweetness, and the special satisfying heaviness that only comes from a cold custard.

The finest of custard tart experiences, with the artisan variety, can be transporting in their own rights.  I am now taken back to the finest custard tart moment of my life, early 2000s, NSW town of Bateman's Bay, we'd just moved there.  How we came to be in Bateman's Bay is quite a story in itself, following a great unravelling series of seeming misfortunes and blunders, and it would be fair to say that when we arrived there we were not in exactly the most tip-top, resilient and sparkling shape.  But it's a truly beautiful part of the world, and I had secured employment, we had a house to live in ... things were looking upwards now at any rate.

As I always had done, I made it a priority to discover the bakeries of the new town, and uncovered a fair-sized alfresco cafe/bakery that made and served a most eclectic array of baked sweets and savouries, doing a roaring trade to complement all the seafood restaurants in this coastal resort destination town.

These custard tarts were only small, definitely no larger around than a CD, But tall-sided in a puffier pastry.  And you could see that the custard filling had been baked to a just-perfect consistency from the browned blistery layer caramelised on top.  A gourmet baked custard tart must hover in its consistency right on the tipping point of the egg just starting to scramble, you want that almost-splitting textural delight on the tongue. The nutmeg had, and I saw it happen with my own eyes, been freshly grated on to the tarts. Everything about them was just right.  Yes they were expensive. Yes we were so broke. But food is great like that.  Sometimes food has that magical quality of enhancing a certain experience, of boosting a moment in time into the stuff of great and joyful memories, the recollection now of biting gently into the first tart I ever purchased from their counter that day.  A half-cloudy sky, seagulls, the beautiful water's edge, and cashed-up enough to indulge in the very best that life has to offer.

I doubt I'd have remembered that day at all if not for that custard tart.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Inevitability Remains

True.  That's what inevitability does, it remains.  That's its job, to remorselessly, incessantly, be there as a future certainty.  But it's an overused feeling, the feeling of inevitability, for only one thing consistently proves inevitable in human experience, doesn't it?

My last post had me running ahead of the curve somewhat; counterintuitively buying time (time to think, choose, act, etc) by hastening my physical demise consciously a little.  It seemed I had found starvation point, the caloric intake at which I was comfortable enough, just, but still not noticeably losing weight.

But weight is a funny thing, especially when it's 50kg hung on a once-6ft frame.  I say "once-6ft" because I am somewhat bent and hunched now; even the discs of my spine are compressed tightly by this maddening disease.  Weighing in today, full after a whole bunch of water, a feed, and with swollen ankles intactly swollen, I am a couple of kilos down.  That and the weakness, and I am brought back down immediately to my inevitability.  This illness is taking my life, or put another, less combative way, I have no choices really anyway.  Still, it was nice to have a few days there where I could sit and feel more empowered to choose my moment, as it were.  But now ... no such luxury of illusion.  My stomach and GI tract generally have already adapted to the new volumes and experience tells me that there can be no reversal.  This won't stretch out.  I can't feed any more than I do now.  That is to say, already it transpires that I cannot feed enough.

That's fine.  I still plan on choosing a moment to stop.  Choosing is totally the wrong word, actually.  What I mean is identifying, yes, identifying the moment.  Being There for it.  Making it something concrete, acknowledging it as a passing.  As a Moment.  Remembering now (and thank you O Big Everything for reminding me so clearly again) that I have no say in its inevitability, of course.

I said a goodbye today.  It was my first "I'm never going to see you again" moment.  (I shall insert the lack of inevitability disclaimer here just for form's sake however; you never know).  It was painful, but also exquisitely beautiful.  Two of the most wonderful, loving friends anyone could have hoped for in life, whom I have known for something like twenty-five years, and shared a great deal of time and heart with.  What I did not expect was that in the tears after they had gone, I would find wracking sobs turn to laughter and utter joyousness.  I was crying out great sobs of complete gratitude and happiness that I had met them, loved them, known them, and been known by them.  And the letting go became easier.  The memories aligned such that even the uglier ones, the things we all might once have regretted, said, done, not said, not done, all those things, they ... they just became part of the joyous whole.

It was fabulously grievous, it hurt like anything.  But it also filled me with love and happiness, and when it all calmed down enough, I felt a little bit lighter.  A little bit more cleansed.

Thank you both; you know who you are.

And thank you again, dear reader, for bearing witness once more.

I don't know that I'm going to have much left to say from now on.  Maybe. Maybe not.  Time, after all, waits for no man.  Wherever you are as you read this, whatever else is going on, please just take a single deep breath in and hold it for a moment, and as you let it out, just feel a bit loved.  And remember you can do that anytime.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Event Horizon. And It's Beige.

3 cups of rolled oats, soaked overnight.
50 grams or so of almonds or sunflower seeds, soaked with the oats.
3 kiwifruit.
About 60ml of olive oil.
Blended with the soaking water and a little sea salt, water added up to 2 litres.

This along with a bit less than two cups of kefir per day lasts me four days.  About 450 calories per day. I have discovered my starvation point, and this is it.  Any less than this and I noticeably suffer, get weak and incapable, etc.  This is survival rations now; the brutal calculus of my survival.

And it's a totally love/hate thing.

It's taken me a while to settle here in what I now think of as my cell, in the sense of a monk's cell, my exit room.    Part of it is that my nature was not letting me properly rest until I had settled something about the question of weaning off from food.  Basically, I had to find this exact point.  It is my bear, you know, like with the old Inuit woman in the story.  It's the Thing.  The line, switch, button, beyond which every increment is anti-body. Destructive. It is the event horizon. The other thing in the room here with me.   You could just say it is death, even.

Now it and I can sit together properly, and look at each other. I feel now a sense of arrival, and indeed even a sense of being welcomed warmly.  It is one of the main reasons I had to leave home, in the sense of my house, to do this.

There was such horrendous grief and sadness and terror when it came, when it happened, when I first properly saw it.  But I had help, and comfort, and Meeta helped me through it.  Little doubt there is more like that to come, but also now I see so much more than that.

I sit there, hands slightly trembling, concentrating on the task of pouring the thinner-than-crepe-batter beigeness into my syringe, utterly adoring, feasting, genuinely worshipping this scant concoction of life energies, of sustenance.  It is my nectar, the one remaining thread by which I stay alive here, and how could I not love that?

Food, in the final analysis, is life.  Everything is either eating or being eaten. Food or feaster.

And it stands in the road of where I'm headed, by the power of my attachment.  There is the rub.

But like I mentioned, the terrors and the lamentations this time passed, and in the wake came cleansing, and more truth.  It is a brutal calculus now, because it has come down to a single-line equation.  The one that asks the question how long will I hang on?  It's an easy one to overthink, the drawing of lines about where my own 'will' starts and ends and where I intersect with inevitables and circumstances so it is such a massive relief to find this space.  I can answer this question now, I know it. It's a question asked of a part of my being that is inexpressible in words.  For it is about complete surrender; surrender of words as well, you see.

That's it now.

Me, comfortable and relaxed in my room here. I feel secure now.  I can see clearly my immense attachment. My sheer animal instinct to hang on. And the burden I have accumulated of life's suffering, as if to balance that somehow.  I have given myself freedom, is what I'm trying to say, I finally realise.  I am allowing myself to simply be here with my attachment, to sit and look at how much it is my being wants to hang on to life.  To meditate on that liquidy beige that is the one last thing.  There is no pressure, I am fine and supported to be here because for the first time I totally trust that the timing is actually all completely perfect.  It is still hard to do at times.  It does still hurt and I am sometimes afraid. But I feel safe with that.

Me here, in my cell.  With the door to the world outside.  There are birds.  Loving the beige going in.  And just looking at that.

Until I find that moment of final surrender and step irrevocably into the event horizon.  Until then, it seems that comfort will mainly be my companion, for which I most immensely, humbly, grateful.

I hope your day is a good one too.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ritual Timing (Notes from TWATEOTU #5)

They come at dinner time, quite often, other peoples' visitors.

I only really noticed it this evening, the correlation.  Sometimes family members will come to help feed a fellow traveller here on The Ward At The End Of The Universe; very often it's the last and only thing they can meaningfully do for them.  I guess I missed noticing this timing thing because my own relationship with mealtimes and rituals of food has become so estranged from the average these last few years.

It's great that visiting hours are so flexible down this end of the hospital, and it couldn't be this way if we weren't an effectively separate wing from the main wards, although after regular hours we share the same single entrance and exit.  It means that family and loved ones can come and go as needed by their own circumstances and feelings, and not be bothersome for those elsewhere needing a more defined period of clinical rest as they recover, or recuperate.  Things we don't do much of down here.

Often, whole family groups will converge and share a mealtime.  It happens regularly that the person who is the ostensible reason for their visiting is not even a part of or included in the event; they may stay asleep or otherwise in repose in their room while the tribe mill about and perform their rituals of food sharing and bonding in the common room.  I wonder what they make of me, sometimes.  There they all are, the whole cast of characters displaced from the Sunday barbecue and transported against their instinctive preference to a place of pilgrimage and reverence, to an afternoon or evening of familial duty, making the strange world of death and dying with its pinging appliances and its encouraged quietude somehow all their own by spreading plates about a large table and performing one of mankind's most ancient and essential rites of togetherness.  As I shuffle in, cachexic and bent but smiling, nodding to each and mouthing hellos in a way that I hope indicates I cannot speak and do not wish to intrude; little red plastic jug in hand I make my way across the scene to the fridge and measure out some liquidy beigenesses from flasks and add some hot water from the kettle.  Shuffle slowly out again, carefully concentrating on not spilling things. It's clear I am a client, not a visitor.  What different things must they all think - if any pause to imagine my life at all, that is.

Or in the late mornings, as the visitors of others gather around that other ritual food time, when I come in with a plastic cup and a spoon and a syringe.  That might be difficult for some folks to watch I suppose, but I do not feel insensitive to their feelings or needs.  It merely is what it is when I pour some boiling water over a spoonful of coffee and a smearing of my home-brought medicinal herb butter and fill the cup up with kefir from my stash in the fridge, stir, plug in and tube-feed it right there leaning by the sink just like I'd do in my own home.  Clean up.  Shuffle back out.  I nearly never get commentary, and am seldom even kindly questioned. I guess it's just too outside the norm to fit.  And any visitor here is by simple virtue of being here not in their usual social headspace. What would you think, seeing this, in the absence of any information than what your eyes shows you?

It's such a great leveller though, the presence of dying.  I never feel like I'm really intruding on their grief or privacy or group space, because in large part there is no territory that can be claimed here.  The ownership of space is necessarily even more deeply transient than a hospital ward not because of quick turnover of patients or anything suchlike; rather because of the relative finality of relinquishing such space as we clients inhabit (and thus claim by proxy for our visitors) while we are still breathing the air here.  There is often slight awkwardness; although one encounters precious glimpses of emotions and personal depths rarely displayed or allowed in public it never seems to rear up as an issue or a problem.  Even in great distress there is this overlaying code of acceptance.  Of sharing, of egalitarianism, and above all of the desire for peace.

That's it.  A desire for peace.  In the face of what can only really be defined by a passing observer, like the visitor of another, as impending death, the thing that underpins any interaction is that single basic assumption: That we all in the end just want peace.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Old Hand (or Notes from TWATEOTU #4)

OK, well, I'm here now.  It's taken a few days to settle my head in properly this time, because this time it really is very different.  Almost identical to any one of the dozens of times I have previously come to stay at respite in terms of how I packed, what I brought, what had to be done behorehand, but then it's the teeny differences that give the game away. For this time I have not come to stay a spell at respite; I have moved to Hospice.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon as planned, carrying the same bags I always carried, into the same room they put me in whenever it's available, 8D.  It's at the end of the row of four more-or-less identical rooms on the wing, and is wonderful at this time of year because it alone of the four gets late afternoon sunlight streaming in.  It also tends to be the quietest, being furthest from the common kitchen/dining room.  Really, just like home.  In fact, now, it is home.

The NW view from my verandah, out across the valley.

The thing that feels most different now is my sense of comparative self when I consider my neighbours, of whom there are currently two, both women.  I'd not really consciously noticed it before, but previously I'd tend to assume that my neighbours would more likely than not be leaving - permanently, that is - before I did, as I expected to return home as my next thing.  Now I have no such assumption whatsoever.  At one point yesterday afternoon, as I lay half-dozing and half-listening to another round of Loud Talking Family Continually Trying Very Hard To Quieten Down The Kids From Squalling, Really, Sorry, We're Trying, I was suddenly seized by a maddeningly itchy curiosity to know my neighbours' prognoses.

I know, horrible, right?  In the middle of all this profound realness, bathed in the sidelight of our humble ward's proximity to the glow of the Other Side, my ego still wants to rank itself longevity-wise against its peers. Pathetically habitual. It didn't last long, but boy did I notice its fierceness as it arose.  It was the part of me that looks to know the pecking order; nothing more sinister than that old social habit.

We all do it, scan the entire proximal human landscape with our finest sensor arrays and seek to position ourselves in an internal landscape that matches pleasingly with our self-perceptions/delusions if possible just so as we can be comfortable making human contact.  But seriously, playing who's sickest?

Sure, I'm sure it's natural, it's just that I never looked at it before.  I was always in some ways still just a visitor, with all the usual disclaimers about certainty in life in place as usual.  Now I realise I am in fact one of those folks whose names I'd see repeatedly over the months.  In, out, back for longer or shorter ... then here for one last visit.  Sometimes those last visits would announce themselves symptomatically, and you knew from the sound of things - or sometimes from the giveaway presence of a tidal wave of family - that it would be a short stay.  Other times you just knew they were here "until."

I am now here "until."

Of the three of us, I am the "old hand."

I'll keep y'all posted.

The view from my armchair. Nice, eh?  That's my Echinocactus grusonii in a pot.  It's my favourite plant, so Meeta brought it up.  Soil from home, and all that. I have had it since it was smaller than a golf ball.

Maybe one day it will grow up to be a big fine specimen like one of these, eh?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lasts and lasts and lasts...

So it's official, tomorrow I essentially relocate to Hospice as my home for the final run.  I'll come home some days for visits (probably nicer to see visiting friends at home too) but tonight will be my last night asleep in my bed.  My. Last. Night.

The last couple of days I have tried to really go into this feeling of doing things for the last time ever - with the background proviso that nothing is ever certain etc etc - and yet have failed to experience any truly profound poignancy or even sense of great loss about it.  When you know you're leaving your home for good, there are so many, many lasts you never thought of before. The thing is, it just doesn't seem to matter now.

I guess doing things 'for the last time' is something we mainly experience in the past tense, as we look back at a moment and identify it as the last time we did X or Y and know that in all likelihood we'll not be X-ing or Y-ing ever again.  That can give rise to nostalgia, wistfulness, longing even, probably because we can instantly lament such a loss - it's gone.

Then again, maybe it's just practice.  Or attrition.  It could be that as my illness and journey has been so incremental and inexorable, with me having to lose and let go of one ability or experience after another, over years, that I've just worn down all the sticking-up lumps and bumps of care and attachment - that my plane of interaction with this stuff is smooth at last - or that I've simply become super-efficient at the process through practice.  You know, that old 10,000 hour rule.  Spend enough time at something and it becomes innate.

I think for a loss to be truly painful you really have to want not to lose the thing in question. 
That's probably it.

And stepping out a few paces, turning around and looking back at myself, I see a guy who wants to lose this stuff.  Who is ready to just stop caring about little attachments like the comforts and familiarities of home.  It's a wonderful little house, and we have made it a loving home.  But it's not right for me to do my end-stage dying here.  It simply isn't.

Home is a thing one carries within oneself anyway, I often feel.  Home is that thing I have made up of Meeta, our house and garden, the things we habitually do together and for each other, and of course the animals.  The physical stuff is the stuff I see as going now.  And to do the next spiritual step, I must leave home, in a sense greater than just the physical.

That's a good way to describe it today, actually.  Dying is where we leave behind the substitute Homes we create here in Life, to return to the Home that encompasses All Things.  Leave the small and re-enter the big.

So now as I notice myself noticing 'lasts' I am getting a wry chuckle going inside.  Friends have asked is it deep, is it depressing, is it joyful, is it ... all sorts of thing they have asked.  The answer is yes to all, it is all those things.  But each lasts merely a fraction of a moment, long enough only to be noted.  There is no lament.  There is no grim clinging.  There is no resentment or even childish grumpiness.  There is just a silly little laugh at myself that I could have spent so many decades on this planet actually caring about some of the minute and inconsequential things my life got all filled up with.

So pity not the letting go.  I'm not really going to miss doing the dishes, really.

Lastly, speaking of lasts, it's also time for the last run at raising enough dough that Meeta has as unstressful a ride as possible with my funeral arrangements.  The fund has gone well, and indeed much has already been spent towards making things easier post-mortem.  But if you can spare a dime, or are (or know of) a secretly wealthy benefactor who can help with more than a little change in these in-parts-difficult financial times, it would make me very, very happy and grateful.  Here is the link where you can contribute.  And I can let go of this thing too, at last.  Thank you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


But first, The Plan; a little necessary update

Where I'm at presently is home, which is nice enough.  Lovely to be back here after the long hospice stay, but alas that too shall pass.  And pass soon enough.  But the Plan as at now is that really I'm about to leave home as home, and be far more at hospice (I shan't be calling it respite any longer from now, I think) than here.  Come here for day-stays and such, but get myself a 'permanent' room Up There.  For as is the way of all of existence, things have changed some more.  The details are unnecessary and sort of irrelevant, once parsed and passed along; the effective outcome is to bring my final line of crossing that much closer. The line beyond which I do not take nourishment - eat - at all.

Food will all be gone, and by that action, so shall I be; just a little while later.  Explicitly, I am reducing even further my caloric intake, but cleansing as well as I go along.  Much like one feeds one's escargot a cleansing diet before their planned ending (heliculturists refer to it as 'purging') I am cleansing the old insides too.  This may vary but right now it's the Ayurvedic standby of brown rice, mung beans (sprouted before cooking), supportive herbs and spices, ghee and maybe one type of vegetable only.

It struck me afresh the other day that food is how we are made.  It's what we're built of.  My entire life is due to food.  And it seems entirely fitting to look back on my life through the prism of food, precisely because of the means I face to meet my end - the end of food.

Here's what I think I'm going to do.  I'm going to take those fleeting memories or inspirations I still have about food, about specific food ingredients I think, and use that as a point to take me on a story through wherever it leads me.  And write it here as I go.  I think we might all like a bit of that, mightn't we?  Not like I could burn it or put too much chili in and you'd still have to be all polite and say "oh, no, really it's very tasty ... " eh? :-)

So, calamari.

I LOVE calamari; specifically meaning food made of the (usually cooked) flesh of squid.  It holds a very special place in my memory too, because it sits as one of my very first 'special' foods.  You know, special as in a luxury choice rather than a basic staple.  In my case, battered fried calamari rings instead of the then-much-cheaper slab of fried fish with our Friday night fish & chips.  I understand this is a bit of an Aussie thing though.  I would again suspect our Italian and Greek waves of immigrants for blessing our shores with the revelation that this marvellously tasty morsel is even edible, let alone deliciously so.  I have eaten it more ways than I could count and can settle on no one favourite dish.

It's also one of those foods that is embarassingly easy to cook just right, yet is so heartbreakingly often ruined by clumsy cookery.  And less-than perfect calamari is a dismal offering let me tell you.  There is little else in the world as disappointing as tough, rubbery calamari when you were all set for a tender scrumptious mouthful of bliss.  My reverie on this textural delicacy was triggered by one of those humdrum daytime cooking programs targetted at the SAHM demographic, so there was not much fancy going on compared to the evening time foodie-first offerings.  Simply fresh squid, washed and cleaned, tubes sliced nicely, dusted in flour and dropped in hot oil.  DONE.  That is all it needs.  To get all cheffy though, the guy made a lemon aioli, basically a lemony garlic mayonnaise.  Now normally, I am of the opinion that the ubiquity of the fish+lemon pairing in modern cookery is nought but a fad outlived its time.  Deeper down I think many people use lemon to mask the 'fishiness' of many types of seafood, protecting their coddled, narrowed palates from any subtleties or nuances arising from the flesh itself, especially when we're talking about the battered stodge that passes for most Australians' fish intake.  To me, the lemon just kills most fish.  But with calamari, it is almost the perfect accompaniment, in moderation.

Yeah, I missed calamari.  I'm over it now.  As a little kid it did make me feel grown-up and special to choose the calamari (and to call it calamari, not just "squid rings") and later in life I would as often as not take the gamble in restaurants that they'd get it right and order something like a chargrilled baby calamari salad. There is something about eating the baby calamari that is just very, very honest.  It's a terribly explicit thing to do, to put the entire tube and tentacular array of a baby beast in your mouth, like you were some apex predator monster-of-the-deep (oh, wait, um ... ;-) and risk angering the Great Mother Squid next time you go to sea, or something.

I cannot recall the last time I had calamari exactly, but it was in Bunbury, takeaway from the fish & chip shop, and I enjoyed it.  Thanks, squid.

Do you like squid?  More importantly, who would win a fight between a giant squid and a big tractor? :-)