- 1.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – Home
- 2.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – The Gravity of Relationship
- 3.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – Light
- 4.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – Beyond Voting: Albert and Kristina
- 5.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – The Energy of Summer
- 6.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – Zen Koan
- 7.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – Looking at Death
- 8.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – The Last Time
- 9.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – Stick-to-it-ive-ness
- 10.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – Forces of Nature
- 11.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – Courage
- 12.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – September 3rd
- 13.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – The Illusion of Time
- 14.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – Finding Voice
- 15.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – A Talk Amongst Rocks
- 16.Conversations with Dead People: A Series – How to be in Conversation with the Universe
Pen to Paper, 40 Minute Writing
I am in bed, after a day in writing workshop with a brilliant group of artists. It is midnight, the clock just struck, September 3rd. The moon is red outside. Fires. Smoke.
I haven’t seen Albert Einstein on this trip, but I need to talk with him. What the fuck is happening in North Korea? My voices scream, a sixth nuclear test, all ready to be aimed at North Korea’s evil villain, the United States!!!!!
Nuclear winter? Albert?
Silence. Only the hum of my phone illuminating the dark where my roommate Shefali sleeps in the next bed. I hope I am not disturbing her. We’ve worked hard today. Writing with Lidia Yuknavitch. Hybrid. Desire and Loss.
I am in bed, studying the photography of North Korea from before the tourist ban in the New York Times, swiping and swiping. Albert is not talking. I see a colorful circus, pink trapeze artists flying across a golden stage, hundreds of young Korean children amazed with joy, watching the graceful flying artists. In this photo, lit large behind the circus stage, a blasting nuclear missile is the colorful happy backdrop.
I click my phone dark. What am I to do with this? It’s now one in the morning, September 3rd. How’s a person to know they will wake up in the morning?
I pick up my phone again. My mind flashes on the world around me. Deep woods. Waterfalls. Writers. I set my phone down and resist googling whether or not I am more at risk of the nuclear bomb landing on Portland, or where I live in Wisconsin?
I decide I don’t want to know, darken my phone again, pull the hotel pillow over my head.
I am in bed, it is morning. I open my eyes. I grab my phone. Whew. We are all still alive. No new nuclear bombs, this time from the United States of America. I look for Facebook responses on my daily 7Billion writing prompt – day two-hundred-and-twenty-five: Green Car.
Jay was born today. September 3, 1967. When I think of him, I think of a green car. Jay only lived for thirteen years.
The week before the green car left him bloody in the road he ran through the kitchen like a song, “It’s not going to be much longer.”
My mom, chatting with her friend Char, playing cards and drinking diner coffee. “What’s not going to be much longer?”
“I am not going to live much longer,” he sings.
He was right, he didn’t make it through the month of May and, unlike Jay, I hate the feeling I might die any minute. I know this planet is like this, and even though he was mostly ok with dying, I am not.
I remember I am in bed, with only a fifteen minute drive to the largest state park in Oregon – Silver Falls. I text my fellow writer buddy, Mark,
have you left for the waterfall yet?
No, meet me in the lobby.
I jump out of bed. I grab a handful of local blackberries, a slice of roast beef from the tiny refrigerator, and run to the lobby.
Now, I’m sitting on a mossy rock, writing. South Silver Falls towering in front of me. I am alternating photographing the falls, the thick forest, the smoky air, the sun shining slanted, with this writing. A voice inside yesterday felt suicidal. Bad writer, uneducated, silent, stupid. Today writing is flowing, my questions being answered, my abandonment depression lifting.
I look up from these words to see a drone thirty feet away, hovering equally between myself and the silent waterfall. Flashing green and red lights hovering in this forest. My amygdala kicks in. Am I being spied on? Is this my government? This drone is looking at me.
Another split second, I soften my defenses. Amazon? I wonder.
A woman approaching me. Pink shirt. Black wrist brace. “Do you see the drone?” I ask, pointing.
She laughs. “Yes. It’s taking pictures of the waterfall. Come see the photos. The guy is an expert.”
I am relieved, ashamed, afraid. I close my eyes, feel around inside myself as the woman walks away. Suddenly, I see Albert wink at me. Startled, I open my eyes. Then, he’s under the waterfall. I squint, making sure. The fifty-foot waterfall almost hides him.
I glare his way, yelling, a sixth underground nuclear test! Two countries in terrible pain aiming nuclear misses at each other! Donald Trump, and what is his name!
Albert is waving at me, drawing my mind away from the news alive in my body.
We are going to make it, he smiles. We are going to make it.
I smile back, but inside I am lonely. I’ve been through this once with Jay, this looking at death directly. Who do I talk about it with? How do we do this together? Ignoring it is ass backwards. I see it in my mom’s eyes.
Albert keeps nudging me, like a potter at a wheel, into a new story – we are saving ourselves – from both inside my body and from under that goddamn waterfall.
I feel it.
Two women swoosh by. “Fires burning. Last night Hood River area.”
I am in my body. On a mossy rock. I feel the fire. It matters. September 3rd. I close my eyes.
Conversations with Dead People is a series of stories which show up in my meditative practice, Contemplative Writing. With this practice I sit with pen and paper, twenty minutes, and write to a prompt from a meditative space. I share these stories with minimal edits to share the depth, the directness, the deep body sense, I experience with my teachers.
Albert Einstein pops into my writing often, we hang out, giving us both a direct chance to explore the illusion of time. Albert feeds me tremendous encouragement to trust the irresistible urge I have to grieve, and heal, through death.
We also meet Thomas Merton, Georgia O’Keeffe, Carl Jung, and more through this weekly blog, Conversations with Dead People: A Series. Please join us each week.