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Beauty and Loss

Dear Friends,

I am publishing an unusual blog post, as I am in a moment in life I am wanting to share– through the text of an email I share below. While very personal, and initially only sent to those in our immediate family and friends circle, who were for the most part with us for the last days of my Mom Marianne’s life, I imagine others might benefit from this intimate sharing of a life passing, that held so much beauty; in these days since my Mom Marianne has died, I feel the more predictable grief, the sadness of the “never agains” which punctuate my day in different moments. And yet the backdrop of having experienced directly the great poignancy and profundity of the transition from this life to the next as witness to a beloved family member, and knowing it as a gift of the highest order, stands firmly established as the central trunk of this experience of loss.  Our culture is in so many transitions, and the embrace of death as a natural and even beautiful experience is a necessary shift. In the spirit of sharing a life story to aid and abet in this transition, I offer this post. And truly, there are many people in my life and work with whom I share the so called personal, who are integral, essential and beloved people woven into the rich fabric of my life with Jillian, life at Turtle Haven Sanctuary, and the larger community. May this post serve whomever reads it.

 

 

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Dear Friends and Family of Marianne,

Last night at 8pm, Marianne quite peacefully released her body, dying from a life of so many sufferings and so many joys. To her left, stood an altar created by Jillian, with a magnificent bouquet flanking a large sketch of Marianne’s mother Elsi  Ascher Schutz,  and photographs of her father Fritzmartin Ascher, and her husband Edward and daughter Suzanne. Across from her hung a life-size picture of her son Peter, with a branch of bitter sweet resting above it; Marianne and our family often collected these branches on Long Island, and dear local friends brought this particular branch to Marianne some months ago.  John Gerard, an herbalist in a publication from 1597 describes the plant’s use:

The juice is good for those that have fallen from high places, and have been thereby bruised or beaten, for it is thought to dissolve blood congealed or cluttered anywhere in the inthralls and heal the hurt places. 

Marianne suffered many trials and tribulations in this lifetime, and yet her capacity to experience profoundly the gift of life pulsated on in the flow of her experience. She loved nothing more than her family, and her dear friends, and each of you receiving this word of her departure, is in this circle. Marianne, with great determination and gentle assistance, could still transfer from wheelchair to car in very recent days, as she continued to relish a drive to see the water, passionately mourned the fading buttercups others may see as weeds, and drank in the presence of friends with the greatest joy.  A sip of whiskey, a dark beer, a mimosa, or a bit of chocolate still were relished, despite the many frustrations of a body aged and losing its steam.

The grace of this final passage, replete with so much beautiful synchronicity leaves us feeling that we all travelled together in a blessed state. We are so grateful to all of you for your abiding presence with Marianne, in person and from afar. The Hospice House in Bellingham where Marianne lived from Monday until yesterday could not have been a more peaceful, beautiful environment. Those who worked there consistently demonstrated utmost respect and deep warmth– and even love in their care for Marianne. Various staff members from Brookdale made touching visits to say good-bye. The members of our community locally who came to sit with Marianne as she slipped away gradually, held this space with gentleness, love and profound kindness. Jillian and I are forever grateful.

For those wanting to honor Marianne by making a donation, we offer a website about the place we support with annual fundraisers and an ongoing friendship, called Maher Ashram. Marianne met Sister Lucy, its founder, in her assisted living room two years ago.  Marianne felt a true connection with Lucy’s heart and vision. Synchronistically a young man we have known for years who was raised at Maher came to visit us, just at the beginning of Marianne’s hospital stay.  Divine Presence in the room was palpable, as Mangesh offered a prayer in his native language, and in English. Marianne smiled and gazed at Mangesh, a beautiful soul raised in the loving embrace of Maher’s inter spiritual community where Jillian, Brel and I have visited in Pune, India. 

https://maherashram.org

 

We will greatly miss our times with Marianne, and her deep appreciation for small pleasures, and human connection above all else. And we trust fully that she is in communion with the Divine Presence, and the Great Mystery of living and dying that is a circle.

At Hospice House, there is a tradition of giving a lavendar bath to the one who has passed, which either staff or family offers. Jillian, Brel and I bathed Marianne with lavendar water, and sprinkled rose petals on her, which preceded the Hospice House Leaving Ceremony, where three bells were rung as Marianne’s body lay at the threshold of leavetaking from this space. The three bells symbolize an honoring of the birth, life and death of the individual who has just passed. We read a a few poems as well, the Mary Oliver selection below being one of them. When Gatisa was here with her family Memorial Day weekend, we did a small ritual honoring Suzanne, Marianne’s oldest child, Gatisa and Sebastian’s Mom, who died in January. Marianne read this poem beautifully and with her full presence to remember and honor Suzy. There was a true poignancy in now reading the poem for Marianne.

We hope you will find your own ways to honor the love we all shared with and for Marianne. She will be cremated this coming week, and Jillian has procured a beautiful white dress and shroud for this time. If you feel inclined to send a prayer on paper to burn in the cremation, please get it to us by Thursday of this coming week.

In love, gratitude, and deep honoring, Elizabeth and Jillian

 

In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go

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Rumi Poem Shared in Class 6/19/18

This wonderful poem requires repeat exposures, and there was a request for it to be shared, when I read it in class today:

The Fragile Vial

by Jellaludin Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

I need a mouth as wide as the sky
to say the nature of a True Person, language
as large as longing.

The fragile vial inside me often breaks.
No wonder I go mad and disappear for three days
every month with the moon.

For anyone in love with you,
it’s always these invisible days.

I’ve lost the thread of the story I was telling.
My elephant roams his dreams of Hindustan again.
Narrative, poetics, destroyed, my body,
a dissolving, a return.

Friend, I’ve shrunk to a hair trying to say your story.
Would you tell mine?
I’ve made up so many love stories.
Now I feel fictional.
Tell me!
The truth is, you are speaking, not me.
I am Sinai, and you are Moses walking there.
This poetry is an echo of what you say.
A piece of land can’t speak, or know anything!
Or of it can, only within limits.

The body is a device to calculate
the astronomy of the spirit.
Look through that astrolabe
and become oceanic.

Why this distracted talk?
It’s not my fault I rave.
You did this.
Do you approve of my love-madness?

Say yes.
What language will you say it in, Arabic or Persian,
or what? Once again, I must be tied up.
Bring the curly ropes of your hair.

Now I remember the story.
A True Man stares at his old shoes
and sheepskin jacket. Every day he goes up
to his attic to look at his work-shoes and worn-out coat.
This is his wisdom, to remember the original clay
and not get drunk with ego and arrogance.

To visit those shoes and jacket
is praise.

The Absolute works with nothing.
The workshop, the materials
are what does not exist.

Try and be a sheet of paper with nothing on it.
Be a spot of ground where nothing is growing,
where something might be planted,
a seed, possibly, from the Absolute.

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Summer Yoga!

Elizabeth Summer Flier_V1

Work Party!

Greetings Friends! Seems the entries of late focus on work. The last one before this, was an inquiry as to whether anyone has a good lead on someone to hire for garden tasks at Turtle Haven. I really did not get much response, to be truthful. The opening is still there! So this time, I invite you and anyone you know who might be inclined, to come and offer your labor as one of love for the beauty of Turtle Haven, and in service to this place of community gathering. Wouldn’t you rather work just as an offering? On May 20th we will gather in the afternoon from 1:30 to 4:30 pm at Turtle Haven to do some forest clean up, continuing on from last year’s storm clean up, as we gradually work towards restoration, after the devastating winter of 2017. Jillian and I held a work party last year, and were deeply touched by the many who contributed with such generosity of spirit. Please consider coming to this year’s edition, and connect with community in the bringing of beauty and restoration  to the land whose spirit brings much nourishment to those who gather here. And there will be good snacks too! Please let me know if you would like more details. There will be tasks gentle and vigorous.  pexels-photo-116833.jpeg

Garden Work at Turtle Haven!

We are looking for someone who may be interested in working in our gardens, doing weeding and other garden tasks! We are open to trade, and this could include for yoga classes,  counseling, mentoring, and/or for a stay in the Forest Hermitage for a retreat. We will also be glad to pay money for gardening tasks. Please let me know if you are aware of someone who might enjoy this very part time work on our land, and who you imagine may be a good fit with the vision of this beautiful place. Or perhaps you yourself have time and interest! Please respond by email to elizabethkerwinyoga@gmail.com or 360-303-3892. IMG_0930

Tea and Skipping Town

Tomorrow April 11th begins the Spring Quarterfor the Wednesday class series, and I will be in Vancouver BC for an evening performance, so Charlotte will initiate the new quarter! Please come and enjoy her wonderful teaching, and I will look forward to seeing those who come to Wednesday evening yoga at Turtle Haven next week!

On another note, next Tuesday, April 17th, after the morning yoga class, those who wish to join in, are welcome to come to The Forest Hermitage for tea and a tour– and just enjoying one another’s company! We will organize to walk or drive down to the VERY nearby retreat house just after class. There is a rumor of crumpets perhaps appearing! Wednesday students who are available are of course welcome to join us.

 

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Spring Yoga

Elizabeth Spring Flier_V3_Full Res

Class Schedule

Greetings!
The remaining classes for the quarter are winding down, and I nearly have a flyer for Spring; when it is ready, I will publish it, but for the moment wanting to let everyone know that the Wednesday classes meet March 14th, 21st, and 28th. Charlotte subs for me on the 21st! The Tuesday class has its final meeting for Winter on the 27th of March. Spring quarter begins April 10th.

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On Being

I pointed out Krista Tippett’s blog in the Tuesday class, and said I would put the link on my blog! Here it is, with a short description from the website:

ON BEING WITH KRISTA TIPPETT

On Being takes up the big questions of meaning with scientists and theologians, artists and teachers — some you know and others you’ll love to meet. Each week a new discovery about the immensity of our lives — updated every Thursday. Hosted by Krista Tippett. Discover more at onbeing.org. On Being Studios is the producer of On Being, Becoming Wise, Creating Our Own Lives, and more to come.
interdependence

Snow on Rutsatz Road Updates!

At this time, late Sunday night, I just drove down our beloved Rutsatz Road, and there is still snow; it is not deep, but for those who are particularly cautious, and don’t have snow worthy vehicle, there might be concern. I am planning to teach both classes this week, unless the conditions worsen to a worrisome degree. I would of course post here, if that were to transpire. In the meanwhile, I wanted to mention the snow on the road for any who might want to ask a classmate with a snow worthy vehicle for a ride. p1000446