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Riding Tanner Creek


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Riding Tanner Creek

Mens fortissima sine mens fanatica

For Ann, maybe the last one

Crossways with you,

you, taking a journey

on which

I had devoutly hoped

to carry you,

you, lugging

me up, my remnant

in your pack,

I, once more

on your back,

ferried across

the roiled water

of Tanner Creek,

a lighter burden

now than ever

in life.

Ex cathedrae

of Nichiren Nuns,

chanting the world

into flower, voices reaching

to as much heaven

as men permit,

my ash and gravel,

blown upward

by Wahclella’s plunge,

settle at last,

mingling with earth ash

in Tanner Creek.

From your rooted place

as you watch me,

shrouded in foam, making

a final trek down

Tanner Creek,

will your spirit,

as I devoutly wish,

race beside me

on rocky incline,


into the uncertain world

we made for you?

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If this is memento mori, then I'd prefer to quote Dr. Carl Sagan, "we are all made of star-stuff." He meant that quite seriously, and I think it's remarkable.

One friend, an outspoken old lady who could cuss like a sailor, and who always let you know where you stood and what she thought, and who always cared, had a specific and unusual wish upon her passing. She wanted to be cremated and to have her ashes scattered on the garden grounds of the church where she was a member. She knew some might find it strange, but her wish was to give back to the church and people she loved, and to make the flowers and plants grow beautifully, to make the world just a bit better for her having been here. Yes, her wishes were carried out, and we who knew her stood there to honor her. She was a hoot, well loved, and quite missed. (And to see her with two friends who were both not the kind to cuss was always fun. They got a kick out of her.)

In the past eleven years, I have stared down death many times, and lost several people whom I still love, family and best friends. There was a time in life I wanted to die too. I was eager for it, because I felt too much pain in living and thought I was alone, unwanted. But I found out that life and love are not done with me yet, and I found reasons to go on, and people to love, even if time and love are fleeting. I will live however long I have, and keep trying somehow.

Those whom I love who've gone beyond to that next-door world, I still love and still remember. I try to share something of who they were and why they loved, so others can know them and what they stood (or sat) for, and in this way, they will live on in memory of those who love them.

Someday, I hope to see them again, and laugh and play and talk for hours. If the afterlife is anything like most cultures believe, then those friends and loved ones are up there (or next door) right now, sitting down to dinner together, with cranberries and pies, with turkey and tamales, with challa bread, with cornbread and fry bread. Three at least are making the hot sauce as hot as they can manage. One is busy making wassail and stuffing with at least two others, because she can cook again for the first time in years, while another is pulling pranks and running around, singing and talking, because for years he couldn't. ...And I will see them in the fullness of time. But for now, there is living to do. There are things to do and people who need, and I need too.

One friend owes me a dinner. Another owes me a chess game and baseball, because neither of us could be that good at baseball on Earth.

While there's life, there's hope. -- And beyond this life, is...something we only glimpse, but hope for.

At least, I hope so. Meanwhile, there's dinner to make, and a friend is bringing by a couple of pies, one to hold for another friend. I'll try not to eat it before that friend comes to collect!

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You describe the experience of most people of a certain age (and not a few younger). This poem is intended only to describe a real journey and evoke a particular place, more a memento Columbia River Gorge. I am still working on it because the meter in places is defective.

It is still possible, but not likely, that I'll carry Ann on the trek. I reject the notion that considering death must deny the joy of life. In fact, death and life are sides of the same wonderful journey, each sweetening the other. My evening was not consumed with melancholy and thoughts of death, but with constructing a nice potato soup and a crusty sourdough bread.

I hope your reunion with the departed is as sweet as you imagine. I'm not sanguine about that possibility for me. And, keep your hands of that extra pie!!!

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