comfort dump

soul card copy

soul card by deborah koff-chapin

Yesterday morning, as I prepared to walk my dog in the crisp Vermont morning under a tentative sun, I felt a tug. Not a physical one – that would have been Loki’s leash. No, this was entirely visceral; or perhaps spiritual. Perhaps it is intuition. But I can say this has happened a handful of times in my life.

The urgency that moves me to do something that had not been on my conscious radar. The first time it happened I named it ‘grace’ — the knowing that made me create an escape plan ‘just in case’ from a doomed marriage. In fact, he returned and early unannounced from vacation filled with self-righteous accusations I later learned to be the MO of someone on the offensive to cover his own tracks.

The second time, I traveled the distance from New England to Texas to visit my aging parents – somewhat spontaneously.  We spent the late November week bringing me up to speed on their financial matters and end-of-life plans. Not a month later, my mother (the business manager of the two) suffered a stroke that left her with expressive aphasia and me with multiple year-end financial transactions to complete. Absent that earlier trip, I would have been utterly clueless. I still can only name that ‘luck.’

But yesterday it was something else. For the first time in the 18 months since we left our old condo, I felt an urgency to visit the one neighbor there I had come to know well and care for deeply. She responded to my knock hesitantly. At the first glance I knew Something Was Wrong. We spent the next hour-plus perched on her front steps while she talked. Poured out her heart. Shared the truly unimaginable layers of loss and pain that had just been dumped on her. I listened, held her hand, and listened more. Loki licked her face and lay quietly between us.

When she had drained herself for the moment, she said, “Comfort in, dump out.” I had never heard that phrase before. It describes a relational way to interact in extreme grief or other difficult interpersonal situations. But of course! When you are in the same crisis with someone, you need to bolster one another up. Only by turning to someone further removed from the pain can you just dump everything you can no longer carry. She was so grateful that I ‘got’ this – and many other things she shared during our sitting-in-January-snow-and-sun connecting.

After I left I pondered what had just transpired. Not close friends, we nonetheless share some deeper connection beyond words or labels. And what went between us was, in my view, a ‘comfort dump.’ It was so patently clear the comfort she needed, and received, from my simple presence, my listening heart. And what a comfort it was to me, having arrived on her doorstep at the precise moment she so needed it.

earthday greetings

'with all of life' by Deborah Koff-Chapin

‘with all of life’ by Deborah Koff-Chapin

Two of my favorite inspirations greeted me this Earth Day morning. First, Mary Oliver’s wonderful poem, thanks to Writer’s Almanac, resonated with me instantly as the only sane way to start the day. Immediately following,  Deborah Koff-Chapin’s hauntingly moving image in honor of the day. I just happened to see both first thing today!

Although I have been absent from this page for weeks, it is not for lack of inspiration; rather, for being awash in it. But the only way out is through – as true with managing inspiration as anything else, it seems. And so, in the spirit of moving forward gently, with presence and as much consciousness as we can muster, may you also begin your day thus.

by Mary Oliver

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

“I Happened To Be Standing” by Mary Oliver from A Thousand Mornings. © The Penguin Press, 2012.

PS Yes, I know, Earth Day was several days ago. However, it was while attempting to post this entry that I learned my site had been disabled. And it took most of the week to get it back online. Having put the time into this post after so long away, I decided to go ahead and share it with you. Besides — shouldn’t EVERY day be Earth Day?!!!

heart suspended


Touch drawing image

courtesy Deborah Koff-Chapin

I peer into the depths to see myself
slowly waken, pulse slowed by cold
as my hands hold my heart suspended

for the moments of winter to pass into warmth
and light, to bring me fully out of the womb-cave of darkness, reflecting

back to me the lessons learned
from winter visions that long to merge
with the light springing into life